Dinner:  September 11, 2009

Commuting to Boston can be rough, and it makes for some very long days (12 hours from the time I leave in the morning to the time I walk through the door in the evening, assuming I don’t work late or have train delays), but it’s worth it for many reasons. Like Providence, Boston is a great food town, and it’s a treat to venture out on my lunch break to source out items for dinner.

One of my favorite discoveries since moving back to this part of the country is Mercato del Mare (a/k/a “the cutest fish market ever“), a jewel box of a store located in the North End. Since Friday was grey and gloomy, I decided to head to the store to pick up ingredients for a light but warming seafood stew.

In a riff on my standard preparation, I decided to toss some Point Judith calamari into the mix. I generally grill or fry calamari, but since tasting a red wine-braised version at Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s Local Food Fest over the summer, I have been eager to try a long-cooked preparation, and the calamari turned out as meltingly tender as I had hoped it would be.

saffron

Seafood Stew with Saffron, Tomatoes and Fennel

½ lb. calamari, cleaned (bodies, tentacles or a mix of both)
½ lb. skinless, firm-fleshed white fish (I used cod), cut into 1 inch chunks
½ lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ lb. cockles or other small clams, scrubbed
2 T extra virgin olive oil
kosher or sea salt
1 cup diced shallot, red onion, or leek
a big pinch of saffron
¼ cup dry white vermouth
1 28 oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes with their juices (I prefer San Marzano), lightly crushed
1 cup peeled and cubed russet potato
½ cup chopped fennel bulb
1 cup water

In a heavy-bottomed soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add half of the shallot, onion or leek and a big pinch of salt, stir to coat with oil, and cook for a few minutes until beginning to soften. Slice the calamari bodies into rings. Add the calamari rings (and tentacles, if using) and another pinch of salt, and stir to coat with the oil. Clear a spot in the center of the pan and crumble in the saffron, letting it toast briefly before stirring through. Add the vermouth and the tomatoes with their juices. Stir and let cook over medium heat until it just comes to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cover. Let cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, and partially uncovering if the heat is too high. Add the potato, fennel and remaining onion, plus up to a cup of water and a pinch more salt, stir and let cook until the potatoes are just tender. Add the chunks of fish, the shrimp, and the cockles at the end, letting them simmer in the hot broth until they are just cooked through – about 5 minutes should do. Remove from heat and ladle the stew into wide, shallow bowls. Serve with plenty of toasted garlic-rubbed bread on the side.

(Weekend Eats (and Drinks) will return next week.)

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