Spanish-style Fish Stew
There are dozens of recipes for fish soups and stews along these lines. This one that I've adapted over the years from more complex (and authentic) recipes is fairly fast and easy compared to many versions of bouillabaise and other similar Mediterranean-style fish soups or stews, and it doesn't depend on availability of fish heads and trimmings for the broth. (I love Julia Child's version of bouillabaise, but even with my love of labor-intensive cooking I have a hard time getting up the energy to go there). Also, if you're entertaining, the time-consuming part can be done ahead and all you have to do when it's time to serve is bring the broth to a boil and add the clams and fish for a few minutes just before serving.
Most fish markets and supermarket fish counters offer some sort of inexpensive generic "chowder fish" which is the base for the broth of this soup, and from there you can go as fancy or simple as you want with the other fish and shellfish. The citrus, onion, herbs, tomatoes, wine, saffron and garlic combine with the fish to make a deeply satisfying and complex stew, just right for a stormy summer night or a cozy fall supper for a small group of friends.
6 C water
1 lb "chowder fish" (hake, cusk, sole, flounder, haddock, etc.) cut in chunks
1 lb firm white fish, cut in 1/2 x 2" pieces
1 lb assorted shellfish (shrimp, scallops, lobster, squid pieces, etc.)
20 cherrystone or mahogany clams, or 20 mussels, carefully scrubbed
1/2 lb linguica or chorizo sausage, sliced in 1/4" rounds
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, with juice
1 medium onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 C fresh basil
1" piece lemon rind
1" piece lime rind
1/2 tsp saffron
1 C white wine
salt, hot sauce to taste
1/2" thick bread rounds, toasted and brushed with olive oil
Sauté onions and garlic slowly in oil, adding water, wine, the chowder fish, and the citrus rinds when the onions start to turn translucent. Raise heat, and bring to boil, stirring, then add tomatoes, saffron, basil and bay leaf. Lower heat and simmer for an hour or more partially covered, stirring occasionally. (Do not season at this point, as the fish to come will add saltiness.)
Remove citrus rinds and bay leaf. [Note: you can do it ahead up to this point and refrigerate for a day or two before using.] Raise heat, bring to boil and add mussels or clams and the sausage. Lower heat to medium high, stir the shellfish into the soup, cover and cook for about 6 -8 minutes until the bivalves open (remove any that do not). Remove from heat. Add remaining fish and shellfish, stir gently, cover and allow to stand for about 8 minutes. Correct seasoning.
To serve. Broad, shallow soup or pasta bowls are best for this. With a slotted spoon, gently lift the fish from the broth and place in a warmed serving platter. Place the broth in a warmed bowl or small tureen. Diners place bread rounds and fish on their plates, and then spoon on some broth.