Trout, collards, and clams in Provençal-style fish stew*

Kevin caught a small trout, and I augmented it with clams and a few scallops we had leftover from Monday to turn it into a meal.

Provençal Fish Stew

3 ounces bacon or pancetta
1 small bulb fennel, chopped
2 large or 3 small leeks, washed well and sliced
2 cups chopped kale, chard, or collards (optional, see GREENS NOTE)
¼ cup or so of anise liqueur
1 c. dry white wine or vermouth
1 cup clam juice
3 c. chicken or fish stock
14 ounce crushed tomatoes
1 ½ – 2 pounds mixed fish and shellfish (see FISH NOTE)
pepper, salt, and sugar to taste

1. In a pot big enough to hold everything, cook the bacon over low heat until most of the fat has cooked out. Remove the bacon from the pan (put it on paper towels to drain), remove all but a couple of teaspoons of fat out of the pot, and add the chopped fennel.

2. Saute the fennel in the bacon fat until it begins to soften, about 10 minutes, and then add the leeks and greens (if using). Chop the bacon and return it to the pan. Cook until everything is tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the anise liqueur and wine, and cook until it has almost all evaporated. Add the clam juice, stock, and tomatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer for about five minutes.

4. Add the fish, and cook just until everything is cooked through. Season with salt (which you may not need, since the clam juice is salty), pepper, and sugar (if you want to cut acidity).
GREENS NOTE: I like to use greens in this stew because it makes it more of a meal. Collards are my favorite, but they have to be partially cooked before you use them. Ditto for kale and chard, although they are usually more tender than collards. Alternatively, you can use spinach, which can cook in the liquid. If you go that route, add the spinach with the clam juice, stock, and tomatoes.

FISH NOTE: You can use almost any kind of fish in this stew. If you’re using white flaky fish, scallops, shrimp, or small clams in the shell, just add them at the end and cook them in the liquid. If you’re using a denser fish like salmon or tuna, you should cook it (any way you like) ahead of time. One of my favorite fish for this is monkfish, which you can add with the liqueur and wine, and which softens as it cooks. Any other fish, I add at the end.