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Cooking

Recipes for New England-style fish stews

Baked chowder, oyster stew, and South Coast fish stew.

NEW ENGLAND BAKED LAYERED FISH STEW

Serves 6

Adapted from Jasper White’s 50 Chowders.

8 ounces bacon

3 large onions, halved and sliced

3 ribs celery, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme

Salt and black pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

2/3 cup dry white wine

1½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, halved, and sliced 3/8 inch thick

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 pounds thick white fish fillets (such as hake, haddock, bass, or halibut), skinned

1½ cups fish stock

2/3 cup heavy cream

4 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced  

With the oven rack in the lower-middle position, heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp, 4 to 7 minutes. Drain the bacon, then crumble it and set aside. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat, adjust to medium-high heat, add the onions, celery, bay leaves, thyme, and 1 teaspoon salt, and saute until vegetables are very soft, about 10 minutes. Add the cayenne pepper and wine, bring to a simmer, and cook, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to dissolve the fond and cook off the alcohol, about 2½ minutes. Set the pot aside off heat; remove half the onion mixture to a bowl and reserve.

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Cover the onions in the pot with half the potatoes, drizzle with half the butter, and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Arrange the fish over the potatoes and sprinkle more salt and black pepper. Spread the reserved onion mixture over the fish and repeat layering with the remaining potatoes and butter; lightly season with salt and black pepper. Pour the fish stock into the pot, cover, and bake until potatoes are just tender, about 40 minutes.

Uncover, sprinkle with reserved bacon, and pour cream over the top. Adjust heat to 425 and bake, uncovered, until the potatoes are very tender and the stew is beginning to brown around the edges, about 30 minutes longer. Remove from the oven, partially cover, and rest for 10 minutes. Stir just to mix, taste and adjust the seasoning, if necessary, sprinkle with the scallions, and serve. 

NEW ENGLAND SOUTH COAST FISH STEW

Serves 6

TIP Allow the mussel broth to settle in a tall, narrow container. You can easily pour off the broth and leave the grit behind.

2 pounds mussels, scrubbed and debearded

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

½ pound cured chourico, casing removed and thinly sliced

2 medium onions, chopped

2 large cubanelle peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped

2 bay leaves

Salt and black pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1½ teaspoons minced fresh thyme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

cup dry white wine

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1½ pounds small Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and halved

1 pound extra-large (16 to 20 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 pound thick white fish fillets (such as hake, haddock, bass, or halibut), skinned and cut into 1½-inch chunks

cup chopped fresh parsley

In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, bring ½ cup water to a boil. Add the mussels and cook, covered, until they open, about 4 minutes (discard any mussels that do not open after 6 minutes). Leaving the broth, transfer mussels to a bowl and set aside. Pour the broth into a tall, narrow container, allow to settle for 10 minutes, and pour it into another container, taking care to leave any grit behind (you should have about 1 cup); cover and refrigerate broth and mussels separately.

Wipe out the Dutch oven, adjust to medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil, and heat until shimmering. Add the chourico and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Leaving the fat behind, remove the chouricoto paper towels to drain. Add the onions, peppers, bay leaves, and 1 teaspoon salt, adjust heat to medium-high, and saute until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, and tomato paste, and saute another minute. Add wine, bring to a boil, and boil to cook off the alcohol, about 2½ minutes. Add the reserved broth, tomatoes, and potatoes, and bring to a simmer. Adjust heat to low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Add the reserved chourico, partially cover, and set aside off heat to meld flavors, about 30 minutes.

Adjust heat under pot to medium and bring to a simmer. Add shrimp and fish, and cook, stirring occasionally, until just about cooked through, about 8 minutes. Add the reserved mussels and heat through, about 5 minutes longer. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding black pepper to taste, sprinkle with parsley, and serve at once.

OYSTER STEW, NEW ENGLAND STYLE

Serves 6 as a first course 

Really more of a rich soup than a stew, this dish comes together quickly and tastes best when freshly made. Take care to neither boil the liquid nor overcook the oysters. Warmed serving bowls are a very nice touch here.

1 pint shucked oysters, with their liquor

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 medium leek, white and light green part quartered lengthwise and cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 cup finely chopped celery

Salt and pepper

4 cups half-and-half

2 tablespoons minced chives 

In a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl, drain the oysters and save their liquor (you should have about cup). Pick over the oysters to remove any bits of shell; refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the leek, celery, and ½ teaspoon salt, and saute until vegetables are soft but not browned, about 6 minutes. Add the oyster liquor and half-and-half and bring to a bare simmer, stirring, about 12 minutes. Cover and set aside off heat to allow flavors to meld, about 15 minutes.

Return the saucepan to medium heat and heat until the liquid is warm and barely steamy, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large nonstick skillet over high heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. When the foaming subsides, add the oysters in a single layer, sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and cook just until the oysters begin to curl at the edges, about 2 minutes (do not overcook). Add the oysters and any liquid in the pan and ½ teaspoon salt to the half-and-half mixture and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary. Divide the stew among warm soup plates, sprinkle with chives, and serve at once.

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