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Main Dishes - Fish/Seafood Trattoria Cooking by Biba Caggiano
Fish 1/1/1992

Sicilian Fish Stew with Couscous

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Servings: 4 to 6 servings

Jim and Pat Reed made this delicious fish stew for a New Year's Eve dinner, and everyone wanted to take it home. It is going to be a repeater in our house, for sure.

Biba Caggiano, the cookbook author, recommends that you prepare the fish sauce completely ahead of time and then add the fish at the end, reheating the sauce until the fish cooks and then serve immediately (prevents fish from overcooking and disintegrating).

The cookbook it comes from looks very good, very interesting. Here's a note about the couscous used in this recipe: "Cuscusu, as it is called in Sicily, is one of the many legacies bestowed on Sicili by the Arabs... [it] was made by mixing semolina flour with a bit of water and oil and breaking it into very small grains by the expert hands of Sicilian women." We'll take the boxed kind.

The author recommends these wines: a Sicilian Bianco, a Vinnae from Friuli, or a California Pinot Blanc.

For the Soup:

1/3 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely minced
2 small white stalks celery, finely minced
4 anchovy fillets, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups fish broth
4 cups canned imported Italin tomatoes with their juice, put through a strainer or food mill to remove the seeds
Salt to taste
teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 pounds mixed fish fillets, such as halibut, sea bass, tuna, swordfish, snapper, or rockfish, cut into 2-inch pieces (Jim and Pat's were a bit smaller)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

For the couscous:

2 cups medium-grain couscous
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
3 cups fish broth

To prepare the fish soup, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, until the onion begins to color, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the anchovies and garlic and cook, stirring, about 1 minute.

Raise the heat to high and add the wine. Cook, stirring, until the wine is almost all reduced, 5 o 6 minutes. Add the fish broth and tomatoes and season with salt and the red pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, 8 to 10 minutes, stirring a few times.

Add the fish pieces and simmer about 5 minutes. During the last minute of simmering, stir in the parsley and taste and adjust the seasonings.

While the sauce is simmering, prepare the couscous. Mix the couscous with the oil in a medium bowl. Bring the fish broth to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add 2 cups of the hot broth to the couscous, mix well, and cover the bowl with aluminum foil. Set aside for about 10 minutes. (Keep the remaining broth warm over very low heat.) Taste the couscous; if it is too crunchy, add the remaining hot broth, cover and set aside for 5 minutes longer. When done, the couscous should be plumper (because it absorbs the liquid) and should still be firm to the bite. Fluff it up with a fork, breaking any small clusters that may have formed.

Spoon the couscous into bowls and top with the fish stew. Enjoy!

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