- 1/4 cup finely diced fatty bacon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed up by hand
- Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 1/4 vegetable oil
- 3 slices good bacon, cut into 1-inch lengths
- 3 cloves garlic, minced, plus 2 cloves thinly sliced
- 1 serrano chile, minced (seeds may be left in if desired)
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced
- 1/2 bulb fennel, cored and diced (3/4 cup)
- Kosher salt and cracked pepper
- 2 pounds scrubbed and debearded mussels
- 1 cup soft red wine (such as merlot, although I have used Champagne if that was handy)
- 3 cups Rosa’s “Two Way” Tomato Sauce
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, pureed
- 8 ounces loose, dry fideo (or vermicelli) noodles
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 12 ounces large shrimp, peeled and deveined, cut into bite-size pieces
- 2 pounds skin-on pompano fillets, cut into pieces 1 inch long (you can use bass or other fish as well, removing skin if you wish)
About this recipe
Serves 4-6. Excerpted from Norman Van Aken’s Florida Kitchen, by Norman Van Aken. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, September 2017. Reprinted by permission of the University Press of Florida.
For the sauce
Heat a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.
Add the bacon and oil. Cook until the bacon is beginning to crisp and has given off some of its fat.
Add the garlic and shallot, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, 5 to 6 minutes.
Add the sugar, stirring well and mashing it in with a heavy wooden spoon to break up. Cook for about 2 minutes, taking care not to allow this to burn. (Sugar accelerates the possibilities of burning.)
Add the crushed red pepper. Stir briefly. Add the vinegar and stir well, as the sugar needs to be well dispersed. Add the stock. Increase the heat and bring to a high simmer; cook until reduced by half or a bit more, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and their juice. Season with a bit of salt and black pepper and bring just to a boil, then lower the heat and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the basil and stir. Season with more salt and black pepper if needed. Serve warm, or let cool, cover, and refrigerate.
Note: You can blend the sauce if you want a smoother consistency, but do so before adding the basil so you keep those pretty flecks within the sauce.
For the stew:
In a large rondeau pot (or Dutch oven), combine the vegetable oil and bacon. Cook over medium heat until the bacon is almost done. Add in the minced garlic, the chile, onion, carrot, and fennel and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add the mussels and wine. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and cook until the mussels steam open, 4 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the mussels to a colander set over a bowl; discard any mussels that haven’t opened. Put the Rosa’s “Two-Way” Tomato Sauce and the pureed tomatoes in the pot and remove from the heat. Set the sauce and mussels aside.
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the fideo noodles in the ½ cup olive oil. Toss and pull at them with tongs to shake them out of their bundles. Cook until nicely colored, about 8 minutes. Drain on paper towels for a moment, then stir them into the tomato sauce mixture. Place over low heat and cook, covered, until the noodles are soft to the bite. Add the mussels and the liquor from the bowl under the colander, stirring them into the noodles and tomato sauce. Cover and keep on very low heat so you don’t overcook the mussels.
If your fish fillets are thick, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Heat another sauté pan over medium heat and coat the bottom with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the butter and increase the heat to medium-high. Add the garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Add the shrimp and fish. Cook until just cooked through, about 3 minutes. (Thicker fish, such as grouper, might take longer. Sear them first in the pan with the shrimp, then transfer to a baking sheet and finish in the oven.)
When the shrimp and fish are cooked, add them both to the stew. Season to taste. Gently stir. Heat the stew over medium heat and serve hot.
Serving suggestion: Serve with some good, crusty garlic bread. If you need any more than this you are possibly jaded. So if you are, and you are like me, let me offer this further temptation: Smash some fine anchovies into some butter and slather it on your bread. Sit back and enjoy the broadest smile your face might be able to stretch into.