1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry white wine
1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice
1 large pinch saffron, seeped in 1/4 cup hot water
14 ounces (1 can) best-quality roma tomatoes, crushed with their juice
1 dozen farmed littleneck clams, well rinsed
2 pounds farmed mussels, debearded if necessary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 ounces red snapper, skin on, cut into four pieces
4 squid tubes, cut into 1/4-inch ringlets, and 4 sets of tentacles
1/2 pound medium-large (21-25 count) shrimp, completely peeled, deveined and partially butterflied
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
Step one: Buy the best ingredients you can. Canned Italian San Marzano tomatoes market “DOP” (Denominazione d’Origine Protetta) are the best (sweetest and fleshiest) variety of plum tomato grown in a specific region in southern Italy. It’s a bit more expensive, but so worth it. Make sure to get very clean farmed shellfish so you won’t get any grit in the bottom of the pot.
Step two: Pretend like you’ve got your own cooking show and get all the ingredients prepared. The onions and leeks should be diced and placed together in a small bowl. The garlic should be minced, placed in a small dish and covered with just enough olive oil to keep it from drying out. If the tomatoes are whole, place them with their juices into a mixing bowl and squish them into bits with your fingers. Soak the saffron in a small glass.
Pull the beards off the mussels. Soak the mussels and clams in cold tap water for 30 minutes then drain. Peel and half butterfly the shrimp. Cut the squid, and poke your finger in its cavity to make sure the clear cartilage is gone. Chop your herbs and place them in a small bowl. Put all this in the fridge. You’ve set yourself up like Rachael Ray with 30 minutes to spare.
Step three: Assemble the stew. Heat a large, table-worthy Dutch oven or cocotte over a medium flame. Add the oil, then the leeks and onions. Cook two minutes, just until the vegetables are translucent. Add the garlic and stir until just fragrant. Turn heat to high. Add the wine and bring to a boil; let reduce by half. Add the clam juice, the saffron and the crushed tomato and stir. Add the clams and mussels and cover the pot. Check in 4 minutes. If the mussels are open and the clams are opening, you’re good to go. Season with salt and pepper.
Reduce heat to medium; the liquid should be at an active simmer. Push the mussels and clams to the side and add the fish fillets to the center of the pot. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Open and carefully push the fish fillets to the side. Add the shrimp and squid and give them a stir just until they start to turn opaque. Turn off heat and cover pot.
The stew can sit like this for 15-20 minutes. When ready to serve, taste for seasoning and sprinkle with herbs.
Note: The recipe serves four. If you wish to double it, make it in two pots.