cucina bene: mangia bene (the many faces of seafood stew)
I’m competing in a chowder cook-off this Saturday, November 12 at the Culinary Center in Lincoln City. There will be about 650 people in attendance and each competitor has to provide about 12 gallons of chowder! The entry categories are either clam or seafood chowder. Most of the competitors are going to be making a white clam chowder, but I am making a red seafood stew that is really a brodetto from Italy. American red chowders originated with the immigrants from Portugal who added tomatoes to clear chowders made along the east coast, but nearly all the countries bordering along the Mediterranean make a type of seafood stew with tomatoes. The brodetto recipe I am using is from the restaurant I worked at last summer as part of my culinary program: Alla Lanterna in Fano, Italy. Chef Elide has won many brodetto competitions with this recipe; we’ll see how it works for me.
Brodetto, like many favorite Italian foods, originated from necessity and poverty. It is a fish stew from the region of Le Marche, similar to the Cacciucco from Livorno in Tuscany, Burrida from Liguria, Bouillabaisse from Marseille, France, and even Cioppino from San Francisco (whose name comes from Ligurian dialect: ‘ciuppin’ or ‘chopped’ since the Italians who emigrated there are mostly from Genoa Liguria). The fisherman living in the coastal towns of Le Marche would bring back their catch to sell at the markets. The fish (Cuttlefish, gurnard, cod, scorpion fish, gray, striped, and or reef mullet, mantis prawns, monkfish, mackerel, or sole) that could not be sold, for whatever reason, was brought home for the fisherman and his family to consume. A stew would be made with the fish and it would be served with sliced and or toasted bread. Oftentimes, the stew would be cooked onboard the fishing boat in a cauldron over hot coals. The fish used was often spoiled which is why an acid, such as wine or vinegar, is used in most of these recipes as a way to counteract the spoilage. In Fano, the fisherman would traditionally drink a beverage of water mixed with of wine that was close to being vinegar (acetella) to go with their version of brodetto.
Mussels, clams, scampi and other more prized shellfish would never have gone into a traditional brodetto — they’d have been sold. The fishing families often would keep the heads of the fish they had sold and boil them separately to make a fish stock which they would then add to their brodetto to enhance the flavor.
Other ingredients and seasonings varied from town to town, and family to family, but were simple, as the fishing families had to barter with farmers for herbs. Olive oil was a constant, and one could also find onions, fennel, garlic, parsley, vinegar (often substituted for by dry white wine), a little salt, and abundant freshly ground pepper. Tomato paste and tomato sauce (used sparingly) didn’t appear until the mid-late 1800s, and the use of hot pepper (pepperoncino) is very recent (and is only used with pasta con sugo di brodetto in Fano).
Today, there are 4 styles of traditional brodetto in Le Marche officially recognized by the Accademia Del Brodetto. All of them vary slightly in the type of ingredients used:
· Brodetto Anconitana
· Brodetto alla Fanese
· Brodetto di Porto Recanati
· Brodetto San Benedetto
To be recognized by the Accademia Del Brodetto, the fish must be 100% fresh with 80% of that fish from the Adriatic Sea and from one of the 4 coastal areas: Ancona, Fano, Porto Recanati, and San Benedetto.
The Confraternita Del Brodetto (established in 2004) is an additional association with the following objectives:
‘The Brotherhood of Brodetto is an apolitical and non-profit organization. It aims to promote culture and traditions of the cuisine of local seafood, especially the match of brodetto and wine, and preferably those of the area (Pesaro/Urbino). To achieve its objectives, the Brotherhood: organizes and promotes activities and meetings aimed at developing knowledge of culture and culinary traditions in the local fishing industry; establishes and gives awards to those who work for the goals of brotherhood, and collaborates with other associations with similar objectives.’
The differences between the 4 brodetto’s are as follows:
· Brodetto Anconitana: this one calls for 13 different kinds of fish to symbolize the Apostles. It is made with onion sautéed in olive oil, fish, tomato sauce, parsley, and vinegar.
· Brodetto Porto Recanati: this one made with onion sautéed in olive oil, fish stock, saffron, fish that has been floured, white wine, and black pepper.
· Brodetto San Benedetto (which is the most famous outside of Le Marche): this one is made with onions sautéed in olive oil, white wine, green and red peppers, fish, vinegar, and black pepper.
The final version, brodetto al Fanese, is made with onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil, fish, water, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, and freshly ground black pepper.
Fano is an ancient town in Le Marche, it was known as Fanum Fortunae after a temple of Fortuna located there. Its first mention in history only dates from 49 BC; Julius Caesar held it, along with Pesaro and Ancona as a way to control the Adriatic Sea. Caesar Augustus established a colony, and built a wall, some parts of which remain, around the town. In the AD 2 Augustus also built an arch (which is still standing) at the entrance to the town. Today, the city is an important fishing port on the Adriatic Sea and a well-known beach resort.
The fishing boats in Fano leave in the evening and return the next morning with their catch. There is a large commercial fish market near the port that services the restaurant industry as well as a smaller, retail market serving the public within the city walls. One can find the freshest fish available at either location.
Brodetto al Fanese Recipe: (serves 6)
4 lbs. fresh seasonal fish and seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops, halibut, cod, crab)
1 1/3 cups EVOO
1/4 cup wine vinegar
2 cups fish stock or clam juice
3/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves minced garlic
Lots of freshly ground pepper
The brodetto made at Alla Lanterna is Fanese style and starts with onion and garlic sautéed in plenty of olive oil. Once the onion and garlic is soft, fish stock mixed with tomato paste is added along with salt. The fish is then added in the order of time it takes to cook. For example, clams are added first as they takes a longer time to cook. Once all the fish is in the stew, copious amounts of freshly ground black pepper is then added. The stew is simmered for about 10 minutes longer and then served in shallow bowls with sliced bread to be dunked in the stew.
Once the stew has been eaten, the leftover sauce and fish are cooked with rigatoni (red pepper flakes are also added) for a delicious pasta dish.
Enjoy the stew and wish me luck! Here’s a nice article covering the event from a local paper: Oregon Coast Today