Dinner for 12: Shrimp, Cod, and Fennel Soup

I've been at this dinner co-op thing for three years now. There are the recipes I make that are stalwarts: delicious, simple and very amenable to upsizing. But every once in a while, I can't help myself. I get a little frisky, my eyes wander, seduced by the sexy centerfolds in magazine like this one. As a result on those weeks, there are a lot of people who get to be dinner guinea pigs. They will tell you this is not always a good thing. This recent meal was a cod and shrimp soup flavored with fennel and tomatoes in a light white-wine broth. I love a good fish stew, particularly one served with a dollop of garlicky rouille and a glass of Pouilly-Fume. But this was not that soup. It is light and delicate and maybe the perfect thing to cleanse the giblets and gravy out of your system. I served it with a green salad with sectioned oranges, fennel and beauty heart radish with a citrus-hazelnut dressing. And of course, the crustiest baguette you can find. This soup would probably also be delicious with a little feta crumbled into it for deeper flavor.

A note about the fish and shrimp: Anytime you're serving fish for 12, it's not the cheapest ticket in town. One great tip I learned is to buy the fish pieces sold at my neighborhood co-op for any fish stews. This time around, I got extra lucky since they were all cod pieces (ha! codpieces!). If you don't need full fillets, this is a significantly more affordable option. As for shrimp, I use it very judiciously, it's not the most sustainable seafood around. In this case, I upped the amount of fish and went low on the shrimp.

Shrimp, Cod, and Fennel Soup with Tomatoes (adapted from this recipe printed in Martha Stewart Living, Oct. 2011)

  • 6 tomatoes (I used my frozen paste tomatoes but canned will also work)
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large leeks, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 small fennel bulb, quartered lengthwise, cored, thinly sliced crosswise, (I saved the youngest, tenderest fronds for the salad)
  • Coarse salt
  • Freshly ground white pepper
  • 3 cups dry white wine
  • 12 cups fish stock
  • 3 lbs skinless cod fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails left intact)


  1. Prepare an ice-water bath. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Score an X into the bottom of each tomato using a sharp paring knife. Blanch tomatoes until skins loosen, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer to ice-water bath using a slotted spoon. Peel and discard skins. Core and coarsely chop tomatoes.
  2. Heat oil in a medium Dutch oven or a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook onion, garlic, and sliced fennel until fragrant and softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon white pepper. Remove from heat, and add wine. Return to heat, and bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom using a wooden spoon. Cook until reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add stock and chopped tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Stir in cod and shrimp, and return to a simmer. Remove from heat, and let stand, stirring halfway through, until cod and shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. When serving, drizzle with additional oil. Garnish with reserved fennel fronds.

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