Thursday, May 23, 2013

Zuppa di Pesce...Think Outside the Book!

Zuppa di Pesce!!
The people of public television's very popular "The Test Kitchen" believe that to understand good cooking, you have to understand chemistry. Their books talk about "the altered states of temperatures" and the forces of molecules when liquids reach the boiling point. Now, I'm a pretty good cook, but I absolutely suck at chemistry. My boss, on the other hand, is a chemistry whiz who, as far as I know, never even attempts to cook. So, maybe, the the two are not mutually exclusive.

Sometimes, (actually, most times) in my kitchen, cooking is feeling. And recently, on an unusually cool and rainy late spring Sunday, I felt the need to cook. A visit to the Jersey shore the day before, put me in the mood for seafood. And a "Seafood Fest Sale" at our local market was the answer to my to my desire. I wanted to make a pasta dish using crabs, shrimp, scallops and clams or, as known to most,  Zuppa di Pesce...and I wasn't going to use a recipe.

As an Italian, I know how to make a very good basic sauce. But, I'm not above buying a jar of quality marinara if the sauce isn't the main ingredient. When I go that route, the only brand I'll buy is from another public television favorite  Lydia Bastianach. It cost a little more than the average market brand but, oh, so worth it.

Zuppa di Pesce is an eye awesome dish that is so easy to make, it's ridiculous! It is the basic layering of flavors that brings it all together. I start by drizzling a decent amount of olive oil into a bottom heavy pot of the enameled cast iron variety. Then saute a couple gloves of finely diced garlic mixed, with a good dose of red pepper flakes (more or less to your liking). I then add about a 1/4 cup of dry red wine and a good handful of chopped parsley. Let this simmer a few minutes to get the flavors going, then add about 3/4 cup of water (boxed broths such as vegetable, seafood or even chicken work just as well here).

Meanwhile, I am scrubbing a dozen or so little neck clams and putting them in a metal colander that will sit inside my bubbling pot with a lid so that the steaming clams release broth into my simmering mixture. (If you prefer mussels, same method applies). Now, you have something going!

Once the clams are open, remove the colander and set opened clams still in shell, aside. Add shrimp, scallops and 1 pound of lump crap meat. (I didn't say this was cheap, just easy). It only takes a few minutes for shrimp and scallops to cook at a simmering point. Overcooked shrimp is tough so once it is pink, remove and set with clams. Now add the marina sauce and let simmer 20 minutes or so. The aroma is amazing!

Get your favorite pasta going, I'm a Capallini kind of girl myself. Now, add all of the seafood back into the pot (clams/mussels should remain in shell for eye appeal), and bring back to simmer stage. After a few minutes, you are done. Zuppa di pesce! Good, crusty bread is a must with this dish. Mopping up the sauce on the bottom is a temptation you won't be able to resist.

By the way, this entire meal takes less about 40 minutes to make, so when you want to impress your friends on a Saturday night, you won't have to stay home all day to do it!

Added Bonus!!! If there is any thing leftover, remove clams from shells and put back in sauce. Cool and freeze for the next time you make the Maryland Crab soup recipe formerly featured on Kitchen Clatter in place of the canned chopped tomatoes. It creates an out of this world seafood soup!

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