Green Crab Brodetto
There are so many names for a fish stew: cioppino, bouillabaisse, brodet, moqueca, bourride, cacciucco, burrida, brodetto…all lovely braises of seafood, bathed in tomato (or not), aromatics (always), and served in big bowl, hot and welcoming and begging for a hunk of bread, garlic-rubbed, toasted, or just as is to sop up the broth. This is a brodetto, a fairly forgiving and expandable recipe perfect for a dinner party, last-minute family dinner (the broth keeps well in the freezer), or a long Sunday lunch. The key is using the freshest ingredients any local sustainable fish you can find will fit in easily. Using both green crabs and seaweed in the broth lends a beautiful sense of time and place, not to mention a healthy hit of umami. You can make the broth ahead of time and add the fresh fish right before serving.
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
1 leaf kombu or kelp (available at most natural food stores or at the ocean)
2–3 bay leaves (fresh if you can find them)
1 head garlic, split along the equator
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
1 small head fresh fennel, roughly chopped (save fronds for garnish if you like)
Maine sea salt
1 cup good white vermouth
5–6 medium to large live green crabs
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomato (without basil)— or if in season, 5–6 roasted fresh tomatoes
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small head fennel, sliced thin
1 small yellow onion, sliced thin
Maine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 heads garlic, sliced thin
3 large strips of lemon zest (use a vegetable peeler)
1 teaspoon or more red pepper flakes
1½ pounds monkfish cut in 2-inch chunks (or hake, haddock, dog fish or seabass)
1 pound wild Maine mussels
1 pound cherrystone, steamers, or razor clams
8 large Maine sea scallops, sliced into 4 rounds each (can also add squid, lobster, Jonah crab—whatever you find, fish, or forage for)
2 quarts green crab broth
Fresh parsley leaves, fennel frond, fennel flowers, celery leaves, chervil (any or all of these)
Best olive oil to finish
Juice from 1 lemon
Set a large heavy-bottomed sauté pot over medium heat. Add olive oil and warm gently. Add peppercorns, seaweed and bay leaf; stir and let soften. Add halved garlic, onion, fennel, and carrot. Season with a sprinkle of sea salt.
Allow the vegetables to soften (you don’t want them to brown; instead they should start to relax in the oil, absorbing it and releasing their liquid).
Pour in the vermouth and allow it to reduce slightly. Add the green crabs. Eventually they will turn from green to red, much like a lobster. Add tomatoes and 4 cans of water.
Once the liquid comes to a simmer (don’t boil—lower the heat if you must, everyone’s stove and pots are different), simmer for about 45 minutes and strain.
Extra step: Place green crab bodies in the blender and pulverize. Strain in sieve or chinois, pressing with a spoon or ladle to get all the juice out; add that juice to your broth.
Gently warm olive oil in large heavy-bottomed sauté pot. Add fennel and onion, season generously with salt and pepper. Let them relax and soften and bring them to the edge of browning, until they’re translucent and unctuous (have a greasy or oily feel).
Add garlic. (Why now? Because the slices are apt to burnt if you put them in with the fennel.)
Add lemon peel and red pepper flakes (if you like things spicier add the red pepper flakes with fennel and onion). Season generously with salt and pepper.
Once the garlic is soft (it will be moments rather than minutes), add shellfish, let them sit for a few minutes to get used to the heat.
Season monkish with salt and pepper and add to pot (if using a more delicate fish like hake or seabass, wait until broth is simmering). Stir gently; when the monkfish start to change color, add broth and raise heat to a full medium. Bring to a simmer. Once the shellfish has opened and the monkfish feels solid, slide in the scallops (if using cooked lobster, flaky fish such as hake, haddock or seabass, now is the time to add that).
Once the last batch of seafood is cooked through, ladle into warmed bowls. Top each with a flurry of fresh herbs, a pinch of flaky salt, a drizzle of olive oil, and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
Serve with thick slice of toasted bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil and salt—or not; hunks of bread will do just as nicely, as will steamed potatoes if you are avoiding gluten.