Some years ago I was at a bookstore, killing some time sweetly, and found an interesting cookbook called “Carmines” based on recipes from a famous Italian restaurant that I had never heard of. But the pictures spoke to me. (and said “You need spaghetti-NOW!”)
I have made several recipes from that book and none have disappointed. Like the porterhouse steak with peppers and onions, or the halibut with seafood risotto which became a Christmas eve dinner for several years. Their meatballs transformed Italian meals here.
Well a sweet friend of ours actually went to a Carmines, both in DC and in Los Vegas and she said they make the food almost as good as mine! (Can you see why we keep her?) She, in fact, brought me back their newest cookbook and gave it to me. “Carmines Celebrates”. Mama mia it has good stuff in it! And here is what we had this last Christmas Eve for dinner. It is like a sea food stew. I took the liberty of adding a scoop of rice to the bottom of the bowls. I would add less rice next time. This was very filling and delicious!
SEA FOOD CIOPPINO
- 3/4 cup olive oil blend (3 parts canola to 1 part olive)
- 1 1/2 pounds Chilean sea bass, halibut or other sturdy fish
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/8 tsp white pepper (really? Not 1/2 a teaspoon? I used the palm of my hand and eyeballed some pepper, sheesh).
- 1/2 lb. extra large shrimp, shelled and deveined (or even cooked, as mine was)
- 1/2 lb dry-packed scallops, side muscle removed (the what? I didn’t see any side muscle).
- 12 littleneck clams, cleaned (wish I could have found some. Used extra shrimp instead)
- 12 PEI or other mussels (nope, didn’t find those either)
- 2 Tbsp thinly sliced garlic
- 1 cup thinly sliced celery
- 1 cup cored and thin sliced fennel root
- 4 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
- 4 tbsp flat leaf parsley (both these and basil are standards in my little herb garden.The 2 herbs I use most.)
- 1/2 tsp. saffron
- 1 large dried bay leaf
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 tbsp. fennel seed
- 3 1/4 cups clam juice
- 1 3/4 cups canned whole peeled Italian plum tomatoes. (lets just call it 1 large can, shall we?)
This may seem like a long list, but its a simple and delicious meal. Just collect your ingredients, or improvise such as I did and have it all on stand by. Do your slicing and dicing and chopping. Get out those prep bowls. First the fish:
- heat 6 tbsp of the oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Salt and pepper the fish.(I usually pat it dry first). Gently slide the fish into the hot pan, browning on both sides, but not fully cooking. Then set aside on a platter for later.
- repeat this process with the shrimp and scallops. Set aside.
- add the remaining 6 tbsp oil and saute the garlic fora few seconds, then add the celery, fennel, 2 tbsp each of the basil and parsley (leave the rest for garnish), the saffron and bay leaf. Reduce heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are just a bit tender and sweating. (like me sometimes;)
- Add the white wine and fennel seed and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
- add the clam juice,tomatoes, rest of the salt and pepper and bring to a boil.Add the clams and mussels and cover with a lid. Check often and, as each one opens, remove and set aside until all the clams and mussels are cooked; discard any that do not open.
- increase heat to high and cook until the sauce has reduced about 40%, about 15 minutes.
- Carefully return the sea bass or halibut or fish of choice to the sauce and gently simmer 3-4 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer the fish to the serving platter. (I cut it into portions and set aside, serving each bowl up myself).
- Add the rest of the seafood to the sauce to heat up for 1 minute. Pour over fish and serve with basil and parsley sprinkled over the top.
As I said, I served them up in bowls. I put a scoop of rice in each bowl, then the fish, seafood and broth. I had a salad on the side and some crusty bread. Merry Christmas!