This is a mongrel recipe, combining my favorite flavors from Italian cioppino, Spanish Zarzuela, and French bouillabaisse. It gets a smoky kick from fire-roasted tomatoes and Spanish Pimenton, plus some heartiness from added chorizo. This ain't a cheap dish. Nor is it simple. While it's a one-pot dish, it does take a lot of staging to make sure everything is cooked properly. Your guests will thoroughly enjoy it, and the tired cook will be quite satisfied. —Pete
extra virgin olive oil plus more for bread.
large onion, chopped
large links Spanish chorizo (fresh)*
fish stock (or chicken stock)
lobsters (1 1/4 lb each)**
garlic cloves, chopped
can (28 oz.) whole, peeled tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
Spanish pimenton, sweet or hot (or other smoked paprika)
Dry Spanish sherry
hot pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
clams, such as cherrystones, scrubbed clean
squid, tubes and tentacles (tubes cut into 1/2 rings)
mussels, scrubbed clean and de-bearded
monkfish, cut into 1 inch cubes
firm fish such as halibut or swordfish***
medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
large sea scallops (anything smaller gets lost in the crowd)
chopped parsley for garnish
loaf crusty bread.
Garlic and almond paste (recipe follows that for stew)
roasted almonds (unsalted preferably)
large garlic cloves, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
In This Recipe
*The sausage must be fresh. If using Mexican chorizo, use about 4 oz. (removed from plastic casing).
***A more flaky fish is just as good, such as haddock or cod, but it tends to break up more easily than halibut and such.
To prepare fennel, cut off stalks and reserve fronds for garnish. Cut the bulb into quarters (top to bottom). Remove core (the tough base/root portion). Slice thinly, lengthwise
Put the whole tomatoes into a bowl and, using your hands, crush them. (Even simpler but not quite as effective, cut up the whole tomatoes, while in the can, using scissors.)
In a large Dutch oven or braising pan, heat 5 tbsp olive oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add the onion and fennel. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add the chorizo link and brown the outside. Do not cook all the way through. Remove to a platter. Allow to cool slightly and cut into ¾ inch slices. (if using fresh Mexican chorizo, remove the sausage from the plastic casing and cook in the onion, stirring to break up the sausage – cook about 4 minutes.)
Add the fish stock to the onion and fennel mixture and heat over medium heat until just beginning to boil.
If using lobster, add them to the fish stock, cover and cook until lobsters are barely cooked (shells will be red), about 10 – 14 minutes. When lobster is cooked, remove them to a platter and allow to cool.
Take a ¼ cup of cooking liquid/fish stock from the pan and steep the saffron in the liquid for about 10 minutes. Set aside.
Add the crushed tomatoes and the fire-roasted tomatoes, the pimentón, sherry, and the remaining garlic to the onions/broth base and heat over medium-high heat until bubbling. Add the saffron and its liquid. If using, add hot pepper flakes (to taste). Adjust heat to maintain a brisk simmer.
Pour any liquid that has collected in the platter holding the lobsters into the tomato mixture. While tomatoes are heating prepare the lobsters by splitting in half lengthwise. Remove and discard the intestinal vein which runs down the tail. If desired, remove the green tomalley and orange roe sack (if present) and add to the tomato. Clean the body by removing loose bits and gills.
Heat oven to 350 F. Slice bread on a bias, brush both sides with olive oil, place on oven racks and heat until golden and toasted. Remove from and keep warm.
Keeping the heat at a brisk simmer, add the clams (and crawfish or lobster tail if using in place of whole lobster) and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the clams open,. Add the mussels and fish and sliced chorizo and simmer until the mussels open, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the squid, shrimp, and lobster body halves, and scallops if using, and cook 1 minute more. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for a few minutes (check the fish to make sure it doesn’t begin to overcook). Season with salt to taste. Discard any shellfish that remain closed.
Fill 4 bowls with equal amounts of seafood (not the lobster, yet). Top with some almond and garlic paste. Place a lobster claw and tail half in each bowl. Sprinkle with parsley and garnish with reserved fennel fronds. Serve with slices of crusty and toasted bread.
For the almond/garlic paste: chop the almonds and add them to a mortar, add half the garlic and crush together into a fine paste. Remove to a small bowl and mix in 4 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, and 2 tbps chopped parsely. Salt to taste and set aside.