All photos by Ted Axelrod
While I’m perfectly capable of whipping up something for dinner without consulting a cookbook or the latest issue of Food & Wine, I actually like ferreting out and reading recipes. Ted, however, almost never turns to recipes; he’s an instinctual and terrific cook, but very rarely makes the same dish twice. This includes his famous spaghetti with clam sauce, which is one of my favorite things to eat in the world and never turns out exactly the same way. Sometimes it’s a little heavier on the lemon; on other occasions the capers or garlic come more to the fore. All fine by me.
So in the midst of yesterday’s snow storm, when he offered to make this stew and write everything down, I clapped my hands with glee and said “Yes, please.” Of course, I had to tweak his recipe a bit, but every genius needs an assistant … In true Ted Axelrod style, it has lots of ingredients — most of them spices — but please don’t let that deter you from making this vibrant, deeply flavorful, one-pot meal. Add some crusty bread and a salad and dinner is done. For wine, we had a bottle of Soalheiro Alvarinho 2012 from Old Port Wine & Cigar — perfect.
A few words on ingredients. The spicy, Turkish-style Sujuk sausage came from Rosemont Market and the fish medley came from Harbor Fish Market. If you don’t want to roast garlic yourself, we just discovered whole roasted garlic cloves at the olive bar at the Portland Hannaford. A revelation.
Winter Fish Stew
Note from Ted: Everything is approximate based on taste. The stew base can be prepared in advance, with the fish and clams added shortly before serving. Mussels can be substituted for the manilla clams; shrimp and scallops could also be used.
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes – roasted on a sheet pan at 400 degrees for about 1 1/2 – 2 hours, cooled and pureed in blender or food processor
2 tablespoons olive oil (more or less depending on amount of fat in sausage)
2 links (11 ounces) hot or sweet sausage, removed from casing and broken into chunks
1 large redskin potato (skin on) roughly cut into bit size pieces
6 cloves roasted garlic
1/2 large red onion, roughly chopped
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock (preferably low-sodium)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons herbs de provence
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound (approximate) mixed fish, cut into pieces
2 large handfuls manilla clams
In large pot (large enough to hold all ingredients) add the olive oil and sauté the sausage until almost browned over medium-low heat.
Add the potatoes, roasted garlic and onion; saute for a couple of minutes.
Add about 1 tablespoon salt (you can adjust salt later), the stock and the pureed tomatoes.
Bring to a simmer and add the Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, Sriracha, spices and the remaining salt to taste. Allow to simmer at a medium low heat for about 2 hours until the broth thickens a bit. At this point you can adjust salt and pepper to taste and let sit until you are ready to eat.
When ready to serve, warm up stew base over low heat. When base is warm, add the fish and clams, cover pot and allow to simmer gently just until clams open and fish is done. Serve immediately. The finished stew can also sit for a while off the heat.