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Spanish Shellfish Stew with Couscous

April 1, 2012

This is a take on a Spanish seafood stew called zarzuela, the main difference being that I’m omitting what’s called the picada, which is a coarse almond meal. It never really did much for me to be honest, especially given the work that’s required. I thought I would use couscous in its place to give the stew some consistency, but when I finished this up I decided I didn’t want to incorporate the couscous into the stew proper, but rather serve them separately.

As always, you can change your seafood ingredients to reflect what’s in season/ in stock / on sale. I found swordfish on sale so used some of that. Many recipes call for calamari. I think calamari might take a little longer to cook than some of the other shellfish ingredients, so just keep that in mind if you’re trying it. Clams are also often included. We don’t see fresh clams here for much of the year, and I’ve never been happy with the results I’ve had cooking them. Of course canned clams would be fine as well.

Teresa had a few notes on this. She felt it needed another herb or seasoning. I think I convinced her basil wasn’t the right choice, that flat-leaf parsley was better suited to this dish. We both enjoyed the stew last night, and T. says it tastes even better today.

Spanish Shellfish Stew with Couscous

olive oil, about 2 tbsp
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili pepper flakes, to taste
a dried bay leaf or two
1 tsp paprika
a pinch of saffron
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 oz. brandy
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups + 1/2 cup fish stock or clam juice
1 cup couscous
2 lbs. mussels, rinsed, scrubbed and de-bearded if necessary. As always, discard any mussels that won’t close when tapped on the counter or submerged in water
1/2 pound raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/2 pound swordfish or other fish fillet, cubed
1/2 pound scallops
a few sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
lemon wedges, for serving

1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven. Add the onion, red pepper and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes, until onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic, chili flakes, bay leaves, paprika, saffron and pepper and cook another minute, so the garlic is fragrant.

2. Add the canned tomatoes with their juice and simmer about eight minutes, until the sauce has reduced and thickened. Add the wine and half a cup of fish stock, bring it back up to a simmer and cook another five minutes or so to reduce the liquid further.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the couscous. In a separate pot, bring a little less than two cups of the fish stock to a boil (you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock if necessary). Once it’s boiling, remove from the heat and add the couscous. Cover and set aside. After five minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork, then return the cover and let this sit until you’re ready to serve.

4. Add the mussels, shrimp, fish and scallops to the stew. Cook, stirring occasionally until these are all done–the mussels will have all opened and firmed somewhat, the shrimp will be completely pink, the fish should flake properly. Remove from heat, add the parsley and stir. Serve with the couscous and drizzle some lemon juice over each plate.

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