The idea of having all types of fish is paramount for the Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve — which is why my recipe from newly released cookbook Classico e Moderno is so fitting. The Brodetto di Pesce or Adriatic Style Fish Stew contains shellfish, fish and fish stock in one bowl and is incredibly warming for a cold winter night and extra luxurious for the holidays. This year, we're actually featuring a special Feast of the Seven Fishes at Osteria Morini in Soho. It will start with something raw, like a tuna crudo with oyster crèma and also some baccala mantecato (whipped salt cod) crostini. Other courses might include griddled calamari stuffed with Raspaurra cheese, baby octopus with polenta, and definitely a seafood pasta like Spaghetti Nero with tomato, cream and crab.
Brodetto di Pesce, Adriatic-style Seafood Stew
This seafood stew combines a hodgepodge of finfish and shellfish in what might be considered Italy’s bouillabaisse. (The word brodetto means “short broth,” a reference to the quick stock traditionally made from the shrimp shells and fish bones, but this recipe calls for an already-prepared stock instead.) You can by all means vary the selection and proportions of seafood, but including a mix is essential to producing a complex broth that results in an alluring effect that I think of as a “symphony of the sea.”
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf, preferably fresh
1 Spanish onion, thinly sliced
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, cut into small dice, or 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably Italian San Marzano or organic, crushed by hand, with their juice, 5 basil sprigs, 1 left whole, leaves removed from the remaining 4 and cut into chiffonade
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 cup dry white wine
Seafood Stock (page 372)
2 pounds firm white-fleshed fish fillets, such as monkfish, sea bass, or snapper, cut into 1½-inch cubes
Freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 pound sea scallops
1 pound large shrimp
1 pound mussels, preferably Prince Edward Island, scrubbed and debearded
1 pound clams, such as Manila or cherrystone, scrubbed
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
10 to 12 slices fettunta (see page 11;1 slice per serving)
Heat a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil and tip and tilt the pot to coat it, heating the oil until it is shimmering and almost smoking. Add the garlic, bay leaf, and onions and cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and sprig of basil and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes begin to break down, about 6 minutes. Add the pepper flakes, pour in the wine, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring to loosen any flavorful bits cooked onto the bottom of the pot, until the liquid has almost completely evaporated, 6 to 7 minutes. Pour in the seafood stock, bring to a simmer, and simmer until the mixture is slightly thickened and intensely flavored, but not murky, 5 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, season the fish with salt and pepper. Put the flour in a shallow bowl and add the fish, tossing to coat lightly. Remove the fish from the flour, shaking off any excess, and set on a plate. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add the canola oil, tipping and tilting the pan to coat it and heating the oil. Add the fish, in batches, and cook, stirring and turning frequently, until lightly golden brown all over and just cooked through, about 5 minutes per batch.
Add the fish to the pot, along with the scallops, shrimp, mussels, and clams; cover the pot and cook until the scallops and shrimp are opaque and the mussels and clams have opened; use a slotted spoon to fish out and discard any mussels and clams that have not opened. Stir in about half of the sliced basil and half the parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the brodetto into wide shallow bowls, including a good mix of fish and shellfish in each serving. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, scatter the remaining basil and parsley over the stew, and serve with the fettunta alongside.