March 19, 2010 | Fish & Seafood
There’s nothing that says making savory stews, layered with luxurious flavors, has to take all day or use a hundreds of ingredients. A few well thought out flavors, paired with high quality ingredients, and you’re in business. My inspiration for this dish was the wonderful piece of rockfish that I found in my freezer, a gift from a family friend from his recent fishing trip to Alaska. The minute I opened the package (after thawing it overnight in the refrigerator) I knew we were in for a treat. It smelled of the fresh ocean with not a bit of “fishy” smell, and I knew the firm texture would hold up well in a stew.I made a simple broth to simmer the fish in – onions and garlic, tomatoes, clam juice, and parsley – but added a couple of things to give it some personality: a splash of Pernod and a pinch of saffron. If I had had any fresh fennel in the house I would have sliced that and added it, but the Pernod gave that slight background layer of anise instead. The sauce should simmer for a few minutes, covered, in order for the flavors to come together.You can really add the fish any way you like, but I decided to cut the single fillet into large chunks and nestled them into the sauce, then covered the pan and let them simmer until cooked through, which only took a few minutes.I had some leftover saffron jasmine rice that I spooned into the bottom of the bowl before pouring the fish stew over the top, but this would be fabulous without the rice also. Despite the tomato-garlic flavor profile, don’t be tempted to add cheese to this dish, as the Italians would be the first to point out that cheese is just too strong to pair with fish. Instead, let the other layers of flavor shine on their own. You’ll be glad you did.
Quick Fish Stew
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups diced tomatoes (1 small can)
1 bottle clam juice
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup Pernod (anise flavored liqueur)
1 pinch saffron threads, crushed
1 pound fish fillet, white and firm
salt and pepper
1 cup jasmine rice, cooked with a pinch of saffron
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat; add onions and cook until translucent, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one more minute. Add tomatoes, clam juice, parsley, Pernod and saffron and bring to a light boil. Cover, reduce to simmer, and cook for 5 minutes to allow flavors to come together. Salt and pepper the fish liberally, then remove cover and add fish (either as a single fillet or cut into large chunks), making sure to nestle the fish in the sauce. Cover and simmer until fish is cooked through, about 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish. To serve, spoon some saffron rice into a bowl, then ladle fish and sauce over the top.