Like so many seafood-lovers who live in landlocked regions, I suffer major crustacean cravings—and I’ve found that they go away instantly when I make a mixed seafood stew like this one. No question, buying shrimp and crab and whitefish—and not to mention, real saffron--for one dish is a splurge, but I think of this as a good celebratory dish, an impressive party dish. Remember to save your shrimp shells and add them to the initial broth: they add a deep complexity to the stew. The quickly stirred-together garlic aioli is essential, and traditional. Any leftovers can be mixed with chopped eggs and any leftover chopped seafood for the most decadent-ever egg salad.
Provencal Seafood Stew with Garlic Aioli
2 heads garlic plus 1 clove
1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting garlic
salt and fresh round black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup diced onion (1 small)
1 cup diced leek (1 small), white and light green parts
6 cloves garlic, mined
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 (28 ounce) can Red Gold Whole Peeled Tomatoes, poured into a bowl and crushed
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
2 bay leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
6 sprigs fresh parsley
1/3 cup white wine
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper
5 cups water
1 pound shrimp
1 pound crab legs
1 pound white fish, such as bass or walleye
1/4 cup finely grated raw Yukon Gold potato (1 small)
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons butter
Baguette for serving
For the Roasted Garlic Aioli, preheat oven to 325º F. Cut the top 1/4 inch off of two heads of garlic, exposing the cloves. Set in the center of a heavy square of aluminum foil, cover with a few drops of olive oil and close the foil tightly. Bake the garlic until very tender and squeezable, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly before pushing the cloves out of the paper shell, reserve paper shell for seafood broth. Smash the garlic cloves to a paste and put in a bowl. Grate the remaining raw garlic close finely and add to the roasted garlic, then add to the mayonnaise, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
For the soup, heat the 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed stock pot, and add the diced onion and leek. Cook, stirring, over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic, paprika and fennel seeds and cook for 1 minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, saffron, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, salt and pepper; cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the white wine, bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Add the water and bring to a simmer.
Clean the shrimp (peel and devein), reserving the shrimp shells and tails and add to the soup. Pull off any small parts of the crab that doesn't hold meat (wingtips) and add to the soup. With heavy kitchen scissors, slice the crab legs on both sides for easy removal. (You can go ahead and remove the meat from the shells now and add all the shells to the broth) Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces and add any trim to the soup. Simmer the broth for 30 minutes, until fragrant and flavorful.
Strain the broth through a colander, pressing down on the solids with a back of a spoon to make sure you get all of the liquid and pour into a clean sauce pot. Peel and grate a potato finely and add to the liquid. Simmer until thickened and the potato disappears into the broth, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the fish and shrimp and poach gently for 3 minutes. Add the crab legs and poach another 2 minutes, or until the seafood is gently warmed through. Add the butter and stir to incorporate.
To serve, slice a baguette on a deep diagonal, toast and spread thickly with the Roasted Garlic Aioli. Ladle the soup broth and seafood into wide bowls and serve with the aioli toast.