Oysters in cioppino*

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I love fish stew of any kind, but I really love this one.  It’s got both fennel and anise liqueur, which gives it a pronounced anise flavor.  If you’re not a big anise fan, skip the liqueur.

Cioppino
(serves 2 as a main course)

1 T. vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
½ large bulb fennel, chopped
1/3 cup vermouth
3 T. Pernod or other anise liqueur (I use the cheap stuff)
1 cup clam juice
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup water
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 bay leaves
2 t. dried oregano
A pound of assorted seafood (see NOTE, below) – I used 1/3 lb. scallops, 1/3 lb. cubed cod, and a dozen shucked oysters
salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet or pot big enough to hold everything, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and cook, stirring frequently, until they wild and begin to brown, about 7-10 minutes.

Add the vermouth and anise liqueur and continue to cook until it almost completely evaporates. Add the clam juice, stock, water, tomatoes, bay leaves, and oregano and cook, stirring occasionally, until it has reduced somewhat, about 15 minutes.

Add the seafood in the order it will cook, with longest-cooking first. Start with any dense fish, move on to scallops, then shrimp and any flaky fish. Nothing should take longer than about 7 minutes. When it’s all cooked through, season with salt and pepper.

NOTE: You can use any seafood at all. I like a mix of fish and shellfish. If I can get monkfish, I use it, and add it when I add the clam juice and stock – it’s one of the few fishes that stews nicely. Mostly, though, you’ll be adding your fish at the very end, and just barely cooking it through. It’s traditional to use clams and mussels in the shell, but I don’t care for shells in my soup, so I usually don’t.

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