Seafood Stew with Russ Parsons

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Russ Parsons is food columnist for the LA Times and author of How to Read a French Fry . He talks to us about seafood stew.

Monkfish and Clams with Chorizo
Total time: 1 1/2 hours
Servings: 6

Note: The best sausage to use for this is the semi-cured Spanish chorizo available locally as chistora, though any other Spanish chorizo will suffice. Mexican chorizo is not a substitute.

1/2 pound small potatoes, cut in bite-size pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound Spanish chorizo, chopped
1 onion, minced
1 red bell pepper, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 plum tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 cup dry white wine
Pinch of saffron
1 1/2 pounds monkfish, cut in 1-inch chunks
1 pound small clams
1/4 cup chopped parsley

1. In a covered pot, steam the potatoes over rapidly boiling water until tender, about 10 minutes.

2. In a large, heavy pot over medium-low heat, warm the oil and add the chorizo. Cook until it has rendered some of its fat and looks cooked, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until softened, about 5minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, white wine and saffron and cook until the tomatoes have melted into the sauce, which should have lost its alcohol smell. Add the potatoes. The texture should be loose and slightly soupy, but not broth-like. Taste and season with salt. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to 2 hours in advance; or even further if tightly covered and refrigerated.)

3. When almost ready to serve, warm the base over medium heat. Add the monkfish and cook just until it changes color, about 3 minutes. Add the clams, raise the heat to high, cover tightly and cook until all of the clams have opened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately.

Total time: 1 1/2 hours
Servings: 8

Note: Adapted from Helen Evans Brown's "West Coast Cook Book." Serve cioppino with thick slices of baguette you've toasted, rubbed with raw garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped green onion
1 cup chopped onion
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
6 to 8 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 pound squid, tubes and tentacles, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups fruity red wine
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds firm, meaty fish such as shark, yellowtail, grouper or sea bass, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 pound lean flaky fish, such as rock cod or snapper, cut in 1-inch cubes
3/4 pound shrimp, in shell
1 pound small clams
1/2 cup parsley

1. In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the green onion, onion and bell pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed red pepper and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the squid and stir to coat with flavorings. Add the crushed tomatoes, red wine, salt, bay leaf and oregano and bring to a simmer.

2. Lower the heat and continue cooking, stirring occasionally. The mixture will eventually lose its raw alcohol smell and the wine and crushed tomatoes will form a sauce. This will take about 45 minutes. You will notice a change in the smell and taste of the sauce as it loses its harshness and mellows. (The recipe can be prepared to this point up to 2 hours in advance or even further if tightly covered and refrigerated.)

3. In a separate large saucepan, one that is taller than it is wide, arrange the fish. First, ladle in a thin layer of the sauce. Then begin stacking the fish in the rough order of how long they will take to cook: start with the meaty ones, then the flaky, then the shrimp and then the clams. If you are using crab or lobster, put those on the bottom layer.

4. Pour the remaining sauce over the fish and give the pan a good shake to distribute the sauce evenly. Cover and place over medium heat. Cook until the small clams are open, about 20 minutes. From time to time, shake the pan vigorously (hold the lid on tight!) rather than stirring, to avoid breaking up the fish.

5. When ready to serve, taste and add more salt if necessary, gently stir in the parsley and ladle the stew into warm bowls.

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