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A Last Meal al fresco Before the Rains: Fish & Shrimp with Alubia Blanca


Here in Napa the rains are late. We're nervous but we hear there's a big storm coming in. Typically, it's sunny and clear, and hard to imagine today. I took advantage of one last chance to social distance and break bread with my neighbor, Connie.

The inspiration for this came from the book on Tuscan coastal cooking, Acquacotta, by Emiko Davies (Hardie Grant, 2017). The original recipe calls for clams and no fish, but I had fresh prawns and halibut on hand. I was also cooking beans and well, you know, beans.

Any of our white beans will work, except maybe Marcellas. They would be fine but I suspect they'd be too delicate and their charm would be lost, or worse, they'd just fall apart.

The stew can be made ahead a day or two up to the point of adding the fish and prawns. You can reheat the pot the next day and once simmering, add the seafood.

Fish & Shrimp Stew with Alubia Blanca

1/4 cup olive oil
2 yellow onions, thinly sliced into half-moons
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 teaspoon Rancho Gordo New Mexican Red Chile Powder
1 large can (700g)
whole peeled tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked Rancho Gordo Alubia Blanca or other white heirloom beans

1 to 2 pounds halibut or another sturdy white fish, cut into cubes
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
4 to 6 thick slices stale (or toasted) rustic bread

Lemon wedges for serving

Serves 4 to 6

In a large pot over low heat, warm the oil. Add the onions, celery, and a small pinch of salt; saute, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 20 minutes. Don't allow the onions to brown. Add the garlic and chile powder; cook, stirring, for a minute.

Empty the can of tomatoes into a bowl and with your hands, break up the tomatoes into small pieces. Add to the simmering pot along with 2 cups of water. Stir and gently simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.

Add the beans. Check for seasoning and add salt to taste. Bring the pot back to a simmer and add the fish and shrimp. Cook until done, 2 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.

Place a piece of bread in the bottom of each bowl. Carefully ladle the stew over the bread. Serve with lemon wedges.

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