One of my favorite dishes of all time is zuppa di pesce. If I see it on a menu, 9 times out of 10, I am ordering it – and ordering it extra spicy. Nothing compares to soaking up all that garlicky-seafood-infused broth with crusty bread. The funny thing is, I have never tried to make a braised seafood recipe myself. I guess I envisioned the fish breaking into a million unsatisfying pieces, and the shellfish coming out rubbery. But it’s the season to braise, and after seeing several recipes about stews and braised seafood dishes recently, I wanted to give it a shot. However, the night I chose to make it, I got shot down. My husband wanted something quicker and less involved than the cioppino recipe I had selected…something about the 45 ingredients or some nonsense. But even though I am always up for a cooking challenge, ultimately he was right. We had two soccer games to take the kids to that day, as well as a birthday party, so it instantly became turkey burger night. The following weekend, he suggested that we invite my seafood-loving girlfriend over, and make ‘whatever that recipe was’. We exchanged smiles, and two texts and 30 seconds later, my girlfriend had already started plotting what she could bring. The night was set. So I set out to make my shopping list.
After looking at all my various recipes, I took to the internet to find one that would be a little easier to prepare, so more time could be spent socializing (aka wine-time). I came across this recipe from A Healthy Life for Me. It looked amazing. I chose to add some garlic, cherry tomatoes, white wine and lemon to it and increased the quantities because of my party of six. After seeing the pile of shells and empty bowls at the end of the night, I decided that we had made a successful dish.
braised mahi-mahi and shellfish with leeks and mushrooms:
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
3 1/2 oz. pkg fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
3 large leeks, halved and thinly sliced – white and light green parts only
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
6 cups lower-salt chicken broth
6 mahi-mahi filets, skinned
1 lb. bag of little neck clams, scrubbed
1 lb. bag of mussels, scrubbed
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
crushed red pepper
1 lemon, zested, then sliced into rounds
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
crushed red pepper
get started on the braised goodness:
Prepare the clams by gently emptying them into a large colander. Under running water, use a stiff bristled brush to scrub them in order to remove grit on the shells. This process takes about 3-4 minutes but it’s worth it so that you don’t bite into sand later. Scoop – don’t pour – clams into a clean bowl and cover with cold water and a 1/4 cup of kosher salt. I have never had a problem with this method, however you can find other methods online that say to just place the clams in a bowl and cover with damp paper towels, and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to clean and use.
Prepare the mussels by placing them on ice in a bowl in your refrigerator until you are ready to clean and use.
In a large enameled cast iron pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the butter and melt until bubbly, but not brown. Add garlic, mushrooms and leeks. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Add the wine cook for 1 minute. Add broth and increase the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil.
Season the mahi-mahi on both sides with salt and pepper. Nestle the mahi-mahi into the broth. When adding the clams, remove them from the bowl with a slotted spoon and into the broth. Do not pour clams into a colander – you risk covering the clams with the grit that was dispensed from inside the clam shells which will be at the bottom of the bowl. Finally add the mussels, and bring the broth back up to a boil. Add grape tomatoes and stir gently. Cover tightly with a lid and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 8 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through and opaque. If there are clams and mussels that have not opened, remove the fish and continue cooking the shellfish another 2-3 minutes. Discard any shellfish that have not opened. With a slotted spoon, remove all the fish, shellfish from the pot and into a serving bowl or dish. Pour vegetables and broth over the fish and add the lemon zest. Garnish with crushed red pepper, lemon slices and fresh parsley.
note: you can plate this individually or serve family style with pasta – serves 6-8 hungry people.