The last time my parents came to town we invited a bunch of friends over and served this Shellfish Stew to a dozen hungry guests. It’s a real crowd-pleaser. Who doesn’t like fresh seafood in the shell cooked in a tomato broth? The shrimp, in particular, help to flavor the stew. A dish like this can make you wonder why shrimp is ever sold and eaten sans shell—it’s the shell, folks, that’s packed with flavor! Whole shrimp, especially honking, insect-like spot shrimp that you’ve captured yourself, look cool too.
Marcella Hazan calls this recipe All-Shellfish and Mollusks Soup (p. 316, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, 10th printing). True, if something of a mouthful. I call it simply Shellfish Stew. My version differs from Marcella’s with its use of whole shrimp in the shell and more tomatoes. (Is it just me and my love of the New World fruit, or is Marcella a tad parsimonious with tomatoes in general?)
Shellfish Stew is similar to other classic seafood soups with its fresh shellfish and tomatoes, but it differs from a traditional Cioppino in its lack of finned fish. Like a bouillabaisse, which is a Provencal version of Cioppino, Shellfish Stew is served over a thick slice of toasted crusty bread; my preference is the Rosemary Diamante made by Seattle’s Essential Bakery.
2 lbs whole squid
2 dozen or more live littleneck clams
1 dozen live mussels
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 tbsp garlic, minced
3 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 large can (28 oz) canned plum tomatoes, chopped, with juice
1 lb fresh whole shrimp in shell, with tails sliced lengthwise for easy removal
salt and pepper to taste
pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 lb fresh scallops
Good crusty bread, sliced thick and toasted
1. Clean and slice squid into rings; leave tentacles attached and whole if small. Scrub clams and mussels.
2. Saute onions in oil on medium heat until translucent. Add garlic. When garlic is golden, add the parsley. Stir, then pour in wine and let bubble for half a minute before adding tomatoes with juice. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add the squid and cook at a gentle simmer for 45 minutes. Add water if necessary.
4. Season stew with spices, then add the shrimp. Simmer five minutes before adding clams and mussels and turning up heat to high. Stir. As clams and mussels begin to open, add the scallops. Cook until all clams and mussels are open.
5. Ladle into large soup bowls, over toasted bread.
And don’t forget the leftovers: You have instant Shellfish Pasta.