This is an interesting, subtle variation on more conventional fish soups and stews; quite different from a hearty Cioppino. It’s an excellent recipe with which to experiment (and they say it’s experimentation that leads to great cooking). You can prepare this dish so that it’s more of a soup than a stew, or more of a stew than a soup. that adjustment depends on the quantity and type of broth which in turn is controlled by the quantity of wine you use, and whether you add water (as this recipe calls for) or a fish broth — and how much of either you decide on.
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups fennel, thinly sliced (save some of the fronds for garnish)
2 cups red onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
½ cup of celery, chopped into half inch pieces
½ cup carrots, chopped into quarter inch slices
¾ cup leeks, halved and then thinly sliced
¼ cup parsley
1 ½ cups dry white wine
1 ½ cups water
1 bay leaf
¾ teaspoon saffron threads, and a little extra for garnish
Salt & pepper
1 ½ lbs red snapper filets
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium ripe tomato
A baguette cut into several slices
What you do:
For a stronger-tasting, heartier version, substitute cod or halibut (or even mahi-mahi) for the snapper, and fish broth for the water. Chopped heirloom tomatoes work very well, too.
Heat the olive oil in a casserole and add all the vegetables up to an including the leeks. Sauté for 10-15 minutes.
Add the parsley, wine, water and bay leaf and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Season the fish with salt and cut into 2” square pieces. Brown them in butter, about 30 seconds a side and add them to the soup. Continue to simmer for two minutes at the most.
Meanwhile, toast the bread (in the oven at 350 degrees) on both sides and rub with garlic and olive oil. Make sure you’re using a good, crusty loaf otherwise the toast will quickly become soggy when you add the soup.
Put the toast in the bottom of the serving bowl and add two slices of tomato (or chopped heirloom). Serve the soup over the bread. Garnish with the reserved fennel fronds and a few saffron threads.
John’s wine pairing:
This is not an easy dish to pair because the snapper is rather mild and the fennel brings its own unique taste. My first choice is a Bogle vineyards Chardonnay – an everyday and inexpensive wine which Linda also used in the soup. We think the Bogle works very well, and it drinks like a substantially more expensive wine. You might also consider a Sauvignon Blanc.