Between clamming season, halibut season, and the hullabaloo of dipnetting upon us, it seems we are always open to new ideas on how best to feature the rich bounty of our Alaska waterways. One crowd-pleaser is big-pot cooking, like soups and chowders; there are wonderful variations in every culture, including gumbo, bourride, cioppino, zarzuela, and more.
For this seafood stew, I looked to the sunny Mediterranean, another area known for its amazing edible swimmers. Because it’s summer now, instead of heavy cream, I thought a tomato-and-garlic-based soup would be nice and light. Loosely inspired by bouillabaisse, which originated in the port city of Marseilles and combines shellfish and fish, this version offers the finishing touch of an easy roasted-garlic mayonnaise that gives a bit of kick and lots of flavor. Use your favorite fresh fish and seafood, including oysters, clams, shrimp, cod, halibut and salmon.
Seafood Stew with Roasted Garlic Aïoli
1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat and add onions, potato, fennel, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. Add wine and scrape bottom of pot. Increase heat to high and add tomatoes, garlic, and stock (see recipe below for a quick homemade stock). When liquid starts to boil, decrease heat to medium low and let simmer, uncovered 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender.
2. Add shrimp, fish, and clams, if including, and bring liquid back to a gentle boil; reduce heat to medium and cover pot for 5 minutes. Stir seafood, turn off heat and let sit, covered, 5 minutes. Stir in orange zest, if using, and a squeeze of fresh orange juice. Fish and shrimp should be cooked through; be careful not to overcook. Remove and discard any clams that have not opened. Taste broth and add more salt or pepper, as needed. Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley and serve with toasted baguette slices and Roasted Garlic Aioli. For a richer broth, stir some of the aioli into the soup.
What to Drink: A chilled rosé from Provence, a Spanish Albariño, a crisp white Sancerre, or an Austrian Grüner Silvaner.
Roasted Garlic Aioli
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Take one whole head of garlic and cut about 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch off the top. Place head, cut side up, in a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil or in a baking tin and drizzle top with some olive oil, loosening the cloves with your fingers so that some oil penetrates. Wrap tightly with foil and bake for about 30 to 40 minutes or until the cloves are soft. Unwrap and let cool enough to handle. When cool, squeeze the cloves and smash them into the mayonnaise and cayenne pepper. Taste and add more cayenne, as needed.
*To make a quick stock for this recipe with unpeeled whole shrimp: Remove the shrimp shells and heads (and any fish scraps) and place them in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt; part of an onion (leaving the peel on is OK), some black peppercorns, a carrot, cut in half or quartered; a celery rib, and add enough water (and some white wine) to cover by about 2 inches or so. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium, simmering uncovered about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit about 10 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl or large measuring cup, discarding the solids.