Fisherman’s stew with tomato and saffron
With the small, bony fish that their customers don’t want, Greek fishermen make kakavia, a one-pot soup similar in spirit to bouillabaisse or cioppino. In the version made at Kokkari, they don’t use trash fish, however. They use live Dungeness crab to enhance the broth with the briny juices and creamy crab “butter.” A splash of ouzo provides the Greek accent.
1 live Dungeness crab, about 2 pounds (1 kg), cleaned and cut up
⅓ c. (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 c. (250 ml) coarsely chopped onion
1 small carrot, peeled and halved lengthwise then sliced thinly crosswise
1 inner rib celery including leaves, thinly sliced crosswise
2 garlic cloves, minced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ c. (60 ml) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) saffron threads
¼ tsp. (1.25 ml) red pepper flakes, or more to taste
½ tsp. (2.5 ml) dried oregano, crumbled
¾ to 1 lb. (375 to 500 g) bone-in fish steaks such as halibut, rock cod or striped bass
½ c. (125 ml) dry white wine
1 c. (250 ml) tomato sauce
3 tbsp. (45 ml) ouzo liqueur
1 dozen large shrimp, preferably head on, back split and black vein removed
1 lb. (500 g) large mussels, debearded
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, a pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften slightly, 3 minutes. Don’t allow them to color.
Add the parsley, saffron and pepper flakes, and stir for a minute or two. Add the cleaned and cut-up crab, and stir to coat with the seasonings. Add the oregano, crumbling it between your fingers, then add the fish steaks, wine, tomato sauce and ouzo. Bring to a simmer, stirring gently, then add all the crab viscera and juices in the bowl. Add 2 cups (500 ml) of water and season with salt, remembering that mussel juices are salty. Bring to a simmer, then add the shrimp and mussels. Cover and cook until the shrimp turn pink, the mussels open and the fish is white and flaky, 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
Divide the fish, shellfish and broth evenly among 6 bowls, and serve immediately. Provide crusty bread for dunking, crackers for cracking the crab legs, bowls for the shells and wet towels for hands. Serves 6.
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