Why we should all be eating more fish this year — and a recipe for a delectable seafood stew

First things first: I know the term “fish stew” doesn’t sound great. It’s not whetting your appetite. It’s not immediately appealing. You’re not reading this and running to tell your pals, “Hey, let’s make fish stew this weekend!” I get it.

I wracked my brain to come up with an alternate title, which I did eventually land on, but truthfully — this is a fish stew. Why pretend it’s anything but?

So, in an act of radical defiance, I think it’s only fair to brand this terrifically delicious bowl of aromatics, vegetables, fish and a truly scrumptious white wine and clam-laced broth a “fish stew.”

This calendar year, I’ve tried to make a conscious effort to add lots of fish to my diet.

I’ve written about loving fish before, but I’ve also noted that while I could eat tuna sandwiches, shrimp scampi or clams oreganata by the bucket (abbondanza truly is my life’s ethos, if you haven’t noticed), I rarely ever would buy and cook cod, monkfish or halibut fillets, even though I love ordering those items when I’m out at a restaurant. I also love ordering crudos with fluke or hamachi, but I generally don’t often tackle raw preparations at home.

Since eschewing red meat about two years ago, however, I realize I cannot subsist on produce, poultry, cheese and bread alone. Fish is wonderful! 

Fish stew with shrimp, grouper and potatoesFish stew with shrimp, grouper and potatoes (Michael La Corte)

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I know, I know. It can feel intimidating, it can feel overwhelming, it can cause thoughts of “I’d rather just go to Red Lobster,” but at the end of the day, seafood is healthful, cooks in no time and can make for an excellent meal that won’t take up lots of time or call for an inordinate amount of ingredients.

We should all strive to cook and eat more fish. So find a fish market, purchase your body weight in lobster, crab, scallops and swordfish, and let’s all get fishy (sorry!) this summer, starting with this stellar stew. 

“Fish Stew”: Shrimp and grouper soup with fennel and white wine 

Bowl of fish stew with breadBowl of fish stew with bread (Michael La Corte) 


08 servings

Prep Time

10 minutes

Cook Time

45 minutes


Extra virgin olive oil

2 to 3 fennel bulbs, cored and trimmed, finely chopped, fronds reserved 

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 to 3 tablespoons clam juice

1 1/2 to 2 cups seafood stock (conversely, use water, or. mix, enough to cover all of the stew ingredients)

1/2 bag Yukon Gold small potatoes, washed or scubbed and halved


Freshly ground black pepper

1 to 2 teaspoons paprika or Old Bay 

Touch of cream, optional

1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 to 2 fillets grouper or other white fish, such as halibut or cod, cut into 1 to 2-inch chunks 

Other, additional seafood, such as clams or mussels, cleaned and prepped (beards removed, if using mussels), optional

Crusty bread, sliced

Softened, whipped butter, flavored with kosher salt and orange zest


  1. In a large Dutch oven or comparable pot, warm olive oil over medium-low heat. Add fennel and onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Try to not get any color on the vegetables.
  2. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir well.
  3. Add wine, raise heat to medium and reduce until the pot is nearly dry, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add clam juice, seafood stock or water, and potatoes. Cover and cook 20 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are fork-tender. Season with salt, pepper and paprika or Old Bay. If using, add cream now. 
  5. Note: You can, at this point, turn the heat off, let the soup cool and then puree it, if you’d prefer a thick, rich texture with large pieces of seafood instead of a thin broth with vegetable pieces and large pieces of seafood. Up to you!
  6. About 8 to 10 minutes prior to your being ready to serve, add your white fish chunks and let cook about 5 minutes. Add shrimp, let cook 3 to 4 minutes and remove. You can add the seafood directly to the broth to cook or conversely, you can lower the seafood into the broth in a strainer of sorts, removing the fish as soon as it’s cooked through. Do not overcook.
  7. If you’re adding or using any additional seafood or shellfish, add them now and cook until their shells have opened.
  8. To serve, ladle stew into warm bowls, garnish with reserved fennel fronds, and serve with a slice of crusty bread that has been “buttered” with the orange zest-salt compound butter. 

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