Matelote de Poisson, is a French seafood stew that is really quick and easy to make, and it looks gorgeous. Deep golden orange studded with pink shrimp and black mussels. Ask the fishmonger... to cube the fish, to get it ready to the table in around 30 minutes, though it will taste like it took hours. Once the stew base is ready, add any firm white fish and the seafood. The trick is to add the fish in order, firmest first, most delicate last, so that the pieces hold their shape. Monkfish, the poor man’s lobster, is a good meaty choice to start with.The shellfish goes in last of all. It takes almost no time to cook. Be gentle when mixing the stew once it’s cooked, so as not to break up the soft white fish too much. Mussels need to be shaken around while they are cooking. For this reason, cook them in a separate pot and add them to the stew when they are done.
Dissolve the saffron threads in a little hot water. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large heavy pot over a medium high flame. Sauté half the garlic until it starts to color. Add the onion and sauté until it softens and takes on a golden color. Add half cup of the lemon mixture to deglaze the pan. Add the tomatoes and cook them down until they start to get an orangey color. Add the saffron. Cook for a minute.
Add the potatoes and enough stock or water to just cover. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer over a low heat until the potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes. Taste for salt. Add the chunks of monkfish. Cook for 3-5 minutes.
Stir the sea scallops and cod into the stew. Cook 1 minute then add the shrimps. Cook until the shrimps turn pink, about 1 minute.
Meanwhile, cook the mussels: Drain the cleaned mussels. In a separate large pot heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over a medium-high flame. Add the reserved garlic and fry until it starts to color, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining white wine and cook down until it has reduced and looks a bit syrupy. As soon as you add the shrimp to the stew, to the mussel pot add the cleaned mussels, a generous pinch of salt and the chopped parsley. Close the lid and cook them over a high heat, shaking the pan until all the mussels are open, about 3 minutes.
To finish the stew: Pour the liquor from the mussels into the stew and gently stir it in. Arrange the mussels on top of the stew, discarding any that are still tightly shut. Serve immediately with crispy baguette and a simple green salad.
Mussels are living things, and need to stay that way until they are cooked. Eating a bad one can cause great discomfort. If not used to handling them, here’s how to avoid any problems:
When getting the mussels home from the market, pick through them. Discard any that are broken. Put the rest straight into a bowl of cold salted water and let them sit in the fridge for an hour or so. This will encourage them to spit out any grit and sand. Some cooks add a tablespoon of flour to the water too, to feed them. When ready to cook, drain.
Most mussels are sold pre-cleaned, but it pays to check them over. If they have brown fibers or “beard” around the rims of their shells, run them round with a sharp knife to remove. Tap any open mussels sharply with your knife. Discard any that stay open. Tapping makes them think you’re a hungry gull and should make all the live ones close. Put all the cleaned mussels into a fresh bowl of salted water. Drain when ready to cook them.
Discard any mussels that stay closed after cooking. This means they weren’t alive to start with and should not be eaten. They won’t affect the edibility of the rest of the mussels in the pot.