Catalan Fish Stew

This rich, flavorful Catalan twist on fish stew comes from chef Mark Sullivan, who traveled and cooked in the Mediterranean in his 20s and returned with a deep affection for the fish stews of the region.

Catalan Fish Stew
Photo: © Chris Chen
Total Time:
3 hrs 15 mins

Chef Mark Sullivan says that a truly great fish stew tastes complex but shouldn’t be difficult to make. An aromatic broth — made from fish head and bones — is the crucial first step. Here, the broth is rich and boldly flavored with chorizo and smoked paprika.


Fish Stock

  • 1 pound fish head and bones, gills removed (see Note)

  • Ice water

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1 medium fennel bulb, coarsely chopped

  • 4 celery ribs, coarsely chopped

  • 4 garlic cloves, halved

  • 1/2 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded

  • 1/2 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed

  • 1 (750 ml) bottle dry white wine

  • 4 quarts chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

  • 6 thyme sprigs

  • 6 parsley sprigs

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 teaspoon white peppercorns

Fish Stew

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 pound dry Spanish chorizo, finely diced

  • 1/4 cup minced shallots

  • 2 tablespoons minced seeded tomato

  • 2 tablespoons minced piquillo pepper

  • Pinch of pimentón de la Vera

  • 1/4 cup dry sherry

  • 8 colossal head-on shrimp (about 3 pounds)

  • 1 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed

  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded

  • 1/2 pound cleaned squid, bodies thinly sliced crosswise

  • 1/4 cup unsalted roasted almonds, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley


Make the stock

  1. Put the fish head and bones in a large bowl, cover with ice water and let soak for 1 hour. Drain well.

  2. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil. Add the onion, fennel, celery, and garlic and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, about 15 minutes. Add the fish head and bones along with the mussels, clams, white wine, and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over low heat and simmer for 1 hour, skimming off the foam as it rises to the surface. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon, thyme and parsley sprigs, bay leaf, and peppercorns. Let steep for 30 minutes.

  3. Strain the broth through a fine sieve and refrigerate until ready to use.

Make the stew

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the chorizo, shallots, tomato, piquillo, and pimentón and sauté over moderately high heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.

  2. Add the 3 cups of the fish stock (reserve the rest for another use) and sherry and bring to a simmer.

  3. Add the seafood in stages according to cooking time, starting with the fish that takes longest to cook: Cook the shrimp until white throughout, flipping once, about 8 minutes; cook the clams and mussels until they open, 3 to 4 minutes; and cook the squid until white, about 2 minutes. Discard any clams or mussels that don't open.

  4. Serve the stew in bowls, garnished with the almonds and parsley.

Make Ahead

The broth can be refrigerated for 1 day or frozen for up to 3 months.


Ask your fishmonger for the head and bones from a mild, non-oily white fish, such as cod, snapper, halibut, or sea bass.

Serve With

Toasts drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with 1 halved garlic clove and 1 halved tomato.

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