This recipe is crisp, fresh and enchanting, especially for anyone who has spent time by the sea or grew up there. To catch its scent is to close one’s eyes and float home!:
1 lb. Littleneck Clams
1 lb. Chilean Mussels
2 3-4 oz. filets Orange Roughy
2 3-4 oz. filets Halibut
4-6 fresh, cleaned whole squid, bodies sliced in rounds, with tentacles (for garnish)
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup fennel, diced
1/2 cup diced tomato
2-3 tbsp. minced garlic
2-3 good pinches of cumin
1-2 bay leaves
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1 cup seafood stock
Pinch good saffron (if unavailable, use Mexican Azafran)
4 oz cup organic tomato sauce
Sea Salt to taste
Grains of Paradise to taste (if unavailable, Freshly Ground Black Pepper will suffice)
Sprinkle of Herbes de Provence (Optional)
1) Heat olive oil in pot or large sauce pan over low heat. (On the side, have a skillet heating slowly. Keep on low till 5 minutes before the Halibut step).
2) Add diced onion, celery, fennel, tomatoes (and any stray tomato juice from dicing), garlic and cover immediately. Uncover after 3-4 minutes. When you see condensation droplets, that’s the sweat you want. Add salt to allow vegetables to release moisture, as well as Grains of Paradise (or pepper if unavailable), cumin, saffron (or azafran if unavailable), thyme and bay leaves. This delicate process we’re orchestrating is like a seasoning infusion.
3) Cover to allow steam and precipitation to create a broth. Keep heat low and allow this process to work for an additional 5-6 minutes.
Uncover and stir to assure there is no to minimal browning. Then, recover for an additional 2 minutes to ensure a good sweat has been had. Uncover and Incorporate seafood stock & tomato sauce. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.
4) Uncover and strain liquid. Discard or reserve solids for whatever you want to use them for. Up to you. For this particular recipe, we are creating a broth sans solids other than the seafood.
5) Return liquid to sauce pan or pot. Add Orange Roughy and poach 6-8 minutes covered.
6) Uncover and add squid. Poach an additional 2-4 minutes for a total of 2-4 minutes for the squid, 10-12 minutes for the fish. When done, remove fish and squid and cover with aluminum foil to stay warm. Add mussels and clams and cover. Do not disturb for about 8-10 minutes.
*WHILE THIS IS WORKING, TIME TO SEAR OUR HALIBUT*
7) Bring additional (hopefully) cast iron skillet up to med-high heat. You know it’s hot enough when you sprinkle water at it and the water beads off very fast and vanishes. This is essential because, if your skillet is not hot enough, your fish will stick. Must allow the protein to hit a hot surface and sear. No fat is necessary in the skillet when you sear. (No oil, butter, lard, etc). (Optionally, you can saute the Halibut in a fat for 3-5 minutes on each side if you are more comfortable with said cooking method).
8) When skillet is hot enough, season Halibut with sea salt, Grains of Paradise (or pepper) and Herbes de Provence, (optional. There’s lavender in HdP which some people may find assertive). Sear each side 3-5 minutes. When done, set aside under aluminum foil to keep warm.
*BACK TO OUR SHELLFISH*
9) When you uncover, all mussels and clams should be open. Discard any unopened ones as those have gone bad and may get you plague-sick.
10) Time to plate! Ladle broth and shellfish in bowl. Wedge in Orange Roughy as best you can. Sprinkle squid. Wedge tentacles around, attractively. Top with seared Halibut and serve with crusty bread, (warm or toasty tortillas work, too!) and lemon wedges. Garnish with parsley.
Serves 1-2. Increase ingredients according to how many you’ll be serving. Feel free to swap in various fishes and shellfishes to suit your tastes. This is a homely recipe where components are at your discretion. Technique and timing should be the focus in practicing this recipe.