During our recent visit to Los Angeles, we stayed just a short walk from the pier at Redondo Beach, so we made a family outing between the various holidays. Everyone else for miles around decided to do the same thing, because the boardwalk was jammed with multi-generational families. Many of them were visiting with other multi-generational families giving a festive air to the occasion. The Redondo Pier is filled with attractions similar to those in other seaside tourist towns: restaurants, glass-bottomed boat tours, candy shops, and an arcade with an indoor Tilt-A-Whirl.
One attraction, though, stands out. The Quality Seafood Fish Market, “Largest and Finest Selection of Seafood on the Coast”. It stretches for much of the length of one side of the boardwalk, complete with its own very popular seafood restaurant around the corner. The best part, though, is the seafood market where you can buy fresh fish and shell fish, some of them live. The place advertises albacore, anchovies, barracuda, blue runner, bonito, bream, catfish, etc., etc., in alphabetical order. This is Dungeness crab season on the West Coast, and there were Dungeness crabs aplenty. But there were at least four other varieties of local crabs, wiggling in their watery holding tanks. There were also oysters from a number of places along with mussels, several kinds of clams, and even some geoduck – pronounced “gooey-duck”. (Which my daughter declared she would not eat. Not too surprising since she avoids “objectionable” foods including all allia – onions, red onions, scallions, shallots, leeks – like the proverbial plague.)
Carol bought some live crabs, shrimp with their heads still on, clams, mussels and a couple of varieties of fish, planning to make a fish stew from one of her favorite cookbooks. New Classic Family Dinners, John Wiley and Sons, Hoboken, NJ, 2009, is written by Mark Peel, owner/chef of the Campanile, widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in Los Angeles but now closed while Peel gets involved in his next venture.
Recipes in the book are patterned after simpler meals Peel served in the Campanile on Monday nights (Family Night) and are supposed to be easy enough that the home cook can prepare them.
Carol did all the cooking, but as I peeked into the kitchen from time to time, it did not look that easy. Regardless, the end result was delicious, and there was plenty for 6 adults and 4 kids. Note that Carol’s recipe has substituted crab for lobster and contains no onion or its relatives except for a bulb of garlic. Also, the recipe is considerably simplified from Mark Peel’s original. For my part, forgive the images. I only had my iPhone on our excursion.
Rich Fish Stew with Crab, Shrimp, Clams, and Sea Bass
- 3 medium Dungeness crabs
- 1 quart boiling water
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- ½ small fennel bulb, diced
- 1 14½ ounce can tomatoes with juice
- 1 garlic head, cut in half crosswise
- shells and heads from 2 pounds fresh shrimp
- 1 cup dry white wine (Sauvignon blanc is a good choice)
- bouquet garni of bay leaves, parsley, tarragon, and thyme
- ½ teaspoon cracked peppercorns
- 2 quarts of liquid: crab boiling liquid+water
- 3 slices country bread, toasted
- Crabs from above
- ¾ pound Yukon gold potatoes, boiled until tender and cut into chunks
- 1 pound white-fleshed fish (sea bass, halibut, snapper), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 dozen clams
- 2 dozen mussels, de-bearded if necessary
- 2 pounds shrimp, heads removed, shelled, and deveined
- 3 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped coarsely
- ALERT: DO NOT ASK YOUNG CHILDREN TO HELP WITH THIS STEP. In a large pot lined with a steamer basket, bring the water to a boil. With tongs, lower the crabs into the pot. (Be careful – they will fight back.) Cover tightly, and cook for 12 minutes. Remove the crabs from the pot being careful to save the liquid. Chill the crabs in ice water. Drain and set aside. Measure the cooking water and add more water if needed to make 2 quarts.
- Heat the canola oil in a large pot. Add the carrots, celery, and fennel, stirring for a few minutes until lightly browned. Then add the remaining broth ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes
- Strain through a chinois or other strainer, pressing the solids to remove any additional liquid.
- Return the strained broth to the cooking pot.
- Add the potatoes to the broth; return to the simmer.
- Add the fish and simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Then add the clams, mussels, and shrimp and simmer until the clams and mussels have opened and the shrimp is pink, about 5 minutes.
- Add the crabs, breaking off the legs and claws. Adjust the seasoning and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve immediately with slices of toasted baguette seasoned with garlic and olive oil. Be sure to have some tools to break open the crabs along with a bowl for shells and plenty of napkins.