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Chesapeake Bay Seafood Stew

Rouille Instructions Below

John Shields

This version of a bouillabaisse-styled main dish is teeming with fresh clams and Chesapeake crab in a saffron-tinted broth. The side serving of Rouille, a classic French accompaniment to fish stews, is mayonnaise-like in texture and made from garlic, chilies and olive oil. Pass around plenty of hot, crusty bread for dipping in the broth.


Chesapeake Bay Seafood Stew


¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 leeks, well washed, halved and cut into pieces
1/3 cup chopped fennel bulb, or 1 Tablespoon fennel seed
5 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
2 cups dry white wine
3 cups fish stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
Grated zest of one orange
3 – 4 threads of saffron
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 – 10 pieces of French bread, sliced on diagonal
Melted butter and chopped garlic for toast
2 pounds bass, rockfish, bluefish, or other firm-fleshed fillets
1 pound backfin crabmeat, picked over to remove shells
1 ½ pounds small hard-shell clams, well scrubbed
Rouille (recipe follows)
Chopped parsley


Heat oil in a heavy pot and sauté the onion, garlic, leeks and fennel until slightly softened, about 8 – 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, potatoes, wine, stock, thyme, oregano and bay leaf. Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor. Pour through a fine sieve and return to the pot. Add the orange zest, saffron, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until somewhat reduced, about 20 – 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the over to 3750F.

Brush the bread slices with melted butter and top with garlic. Toast in the oven until browned.

Cut the fish into chunks about 2 inches square. Add to the sauce and cook for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the fish is done. Add the crabmeat and clams. Stir, then cover. Cook just until the clams have opened. Remove 1 cup of the liquid for making the Rouille.

Prepare the Rouille according to the recipe that follows.

Place 1 piece of garlic bread in each bowl, then spoon in the fish and broth. Arrange the clams on top. Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve the Rouille on the side.


1 small potato, peeled

1 cup of the liquid broth from Chesapeake Bay Seafood Stew

6 cloves of garlic

4 fresh or died red chilies

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

½ cup olive oil

Salt, to taste

Quarter the potato and cook in the broth. Drain, reserving the liquid. Finely chop the garlic and the peppers in a blender or food processor. Add the potato, Tabasco, and olive oil. Process until the mixture forms a paste. Slowly add enough of the reserved broth to give the mixture the consistency of Mayonnaise. Season to taste with salt.