Before our trip to France last month, I decided to start experimenting with some of the food we’d discover along the way. As my mind wandered into French fantasy food land, I experienced visions of dining on gluten-free sole meunière, popping over to Marseille with our six-year-old to slurp up bouillabaisse, and consuming bottle after bottle of cheap yet robust French wine.
Let’s just say this: the wine vision is the only one that came to fruition.
So, back at home, far from the land where fresh mussels can be had on every corner, I decided to create my own fish stew. Being from San Francisco, I opted for cioppino, which is related to its French cousin in that it was traditionally whipped up with the last of the day’s catch. In my case, the catch of the day included a pound of halibut and a few cooked prawns; I’d had a run-in with mussels in Sacramento earlier in the summer and didn’t want to repeat that experience.
This dish is quick, easy and full of flavor. If you’ve got a bottle of cold white wine waiting to be opened, all the better.
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup white wine (Chardonnay works well)
- 1 28-ounce can plum tomatoes, puréed, juice and all
- 1 cup water
- 1 pound firm white fish fillets, such as halibut or cod, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 6-8 jumbo prawns, cooked
- Fresh basil leaves, julienned
- Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat; add the onion and garlic and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes.
- Toss in the thyme, salt, pepper and crush red pepper flakes; sauté for a minute or so.
- Add the pureed tomatoes in their juices and the water, increase heat to high until just before boiling, then cover and reduce heat to low; simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add the fish and continue to simmer until cooked through, about 8 minutes.
- Add the cooked prawns, let them simmer just long enough to heat up, a minute or so.
- Pour into four serving bowls, garnish with the basil and serve immediately.