This Catalan fish stew, zarzuela, with its flavorful combination of fish and shellfish, is named after a centuries-old form of Spanish musical theater known for its colorful mix of characters. Serve the zarzuela with warm, crusty bread and quartered lemons for squeezing into the broth.
Fish Stew with Saffron
- 3 lb. (1.5 kg) mixed seafood such as live mussels and clams, striped bass, halibut, cleaned squid and peeled and deveined shrimp
- 1/4 tsp. saffron threads
- 1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz./45 g) blanched slivered almonds
- 2 Tbs. fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
- 1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp. pimentón (Spanish smoked pepper)
- 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) olive oil
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 green bell pepper
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine
- 2 cups (16 fl. oz./500 ml) fish stock
- 1 can (28 oz./875 g) crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz./75 g) pitted green olives such as Manzanilla, chopped
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Scrub the mussels and clams well, if using. Debeard the mussels, if necessary. Put the shellfish in a bowl of water and refrigerate. Cut the fish into 1 1/2-inch (4-cm) chunks. If using squid, cut the bodies into 1/2-inch (12-mm) rings. Put the seafood in a bowl and refrigerate.
2. In a small, dry fry pan over medium heat, toast the saffron threads, stirring constantly or shaking the pan, until fragrant and a shade darker, about 1 minute. Pour the threads into a bowl and, when cool, crumble with your fingertips. Set aside.
3. In a blender or food processor, combine the almonds, parsley, lemon juice, garlic, pimentón and 2 Tbs. of the olive oil and process to a smooth puree. Set aside.
4. Remove the seeds, stems and ribs from the bell peppers and chop the peppers. In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, warm the remaining 2 Tbs. olive oil. Add the onion and the peppers and sauté until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, thyme, olives, saffron and almond mixture and season generously with salt and pepper. Adjust the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
5. Drain the mussels and clams and add to the pot, discarding any that do not close to the touch. Add the fish, cover, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the squid and shrimp, cover, and cook until the mussels and clams have opened and the fish and seafood are opaque throughout, about 5 minutes longer. Discard any mussels or clams that fail to open.
6. Ladle the stew into soup bowls and serve. Serves 4 to 6.
Find more than 100 recipes for the simple, unassuming, and satisfying food of the Spanish countryside in Rustic Spanish by Paul Richardson.