Swamp Siren Stew

-Stir up a cauldron of this bubbling green seafood stew to share with your coven.

If you’ve seen my post about our Halloween in New Orleans, you already know how much I love spooky swamp culture, with a spicy, French flair. So, I thought I’d share this flavorful and bright recipe, which is also included as Day 57 in my 100 Days ‘Til Halloween Countdown. Plus, as an added bonus, is there’s no chopping; the blender magically does all the work. However, there’s no need to wait until 57 days before Halloween; brew some up Swamp Siren Stew tonight! And, just like the swamp siren lures her catch to her lair, the aroma will beckon your coven to the table.

Every French Quarter-inspired stew starts with a roux, and this one, just like the swamp siren, is a thick, spicy, blonde. Achieve this golden roux by melting two table spoons of butter, adding three table spoons of flour, and a table spoon of red pepper flakes. Once the roux has thickened and become golden, it’s time to bring on the wine.

Choose any white wine you like. A buttery Chardonnay is always really nice with seafood, but this time, I opted for a crisp and slightly grassy Sauvignon Blanc to heighten the herbal qualities of this green broth. (Buy two bottles, though: one for cooking and one for serving.) After the wine and roux are combined and simmering, add the juice of four lemons, two table spoons of sugar, and two table spoons of Herbes de Provence.

If you’re using frozen seafood, which I’m not opposed to doing– especially when it’s being stewed– make sure the shrimp and cod are thawed by this point. Remove the shrimp tails, and be certain the shrimp are fully de-veined and extra clean. The cod fillets will need to be cubed into bite-size chunks, tossed in melted butter, and baked at 400 degrees on an oiled sheet pan. You’ll know the fish is ready when the cubes are solid white, reduced in size, they will just begin to flake, and the butter will become golden. Plus, it will have such a bewitching aroma!

Save the empty wine bottle, because you’ll be adding equal amounts of water to the simmering wine mixture. But, don’t add it all to the cauldron just yet, because you’ll use the water (as needed) to blend up an entire bunch of parsley (just trim the ends, wash, and blend leaves and stems), two bunches of fresh spinach, a bunch of fresh tarragon, and the bulb and stalks of fennel, until it’s all liquefied. Be sure to reserve the fronds, keeping them fresh in the fridge, for garnishing the oysters, later.

When the cod is finished baking, pour almost all of the liquefied greens into the broth, reserving two ounces to add to the oysters, just before serving. Combine the rest of the water that’s left in the wine bottle, the thawed, tail-less shrimp, and the baked cod, along with any golden-brown butter from the pan, into the mixture. Turn the stove burner to medium, increasing the temperature, so the broth will continue to bubble enough to open the mussels quickly. As soon as the mussels open, turn off the heat, and add salt and pepper to suit your taste.

Plate your chilled oysters, add a few drops of absinthe to each one, and as much of the liquefied green herbs as the shells will hold. Garnish with the fennel fronds that you popped into the fridge, earlier. If there is any reserved, liquefied herbs left, use it to top-off the bowls of stew to heighten the emerald color, just before serving. I bought an extra bunch of tarragon for garnishing, since it resembles seaweed– and has such a gorgeous fragrance. But, you can skip the generous garnishing, if you want, because all the herbal-goodness is already in the broth, and the ingredients are beautiful all by themselves. Really, though, aren’t those colors absolutely spellbinding?

While enjoying Swamp Siren Stew, don’t forget to honor the swamp siren with a toast, or two, thanking her for her influence and contributions to this magical meal.

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