Fish in Crazy Water

Fish in Crazy Water is a soupy, stewy technique for preparing fish. It is also very easy to make. After chopping some Roma tomatoes, garlic and parsley you simple simmer the sauce, reduce it to intensify the flavors and then poach the fish fillets in the reduced sauce.

Ample Bites used some Shrimp Stock in lieu of the water to give the sauce a bit more depth and reconstituted dried Guajillo pepper in place of the fresh red chile. To serve this dish, place a toasted piece of bread or crostini in a shallow bowl, top the bread with a piece of the poached fish, and then ladle the Crazy Water over top.


Fish in Crazy Water
(Adapted from recipe courtesy of, March 2013)

Makes 4 Servings

1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped, juices reserved
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 Tbsp minced parsley
1/8 tsp chopped fresh red chile, or more to taste
Kosher salt
4 cups water (or Shrimp Stock, if available)
4 6-ounce fillets, firm white fish such as snapper or tilapia
4 slices of grilled sourdough bread

In a deep skillet that is large enough for the fish fillets to lie flat without overlapping, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, parsley, chile, a large pinch of salt, and the water. Cover the skillet and bring the water to a steady simmer over moderate heat; simmer for about 45 minutes.

Uncover the skillet and boil the liquid until it has reduced by about half. Add the fish, skin side up and cook for 2 minutes. Using two spatulas gently turn the fish. Season the fish with salt and simmer until cooked just through.

Put the grilled bread in shallow bowls and arrange the fish fillets on top. Spoon the broth all around and serve immediately.

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Shrimp Stock – A Rich Base for Seafood Recipes

Ample Bites has written previously about the value of Shrimp Stock but I have recently made some refinements to my Shrimp Stock recipe that make the base for seafood recipes richer and more flavorful.

The key differences between this recipe and Ample Bites prior version are oven-roasting of the mirepoix, the mixture of onions, carrots and celery and the incorporation of tomato paste. The combination of the deeper caramelization of the vegetables and the complexity of the tomato paste do the trick. Give this version a try with your next seafood dish requiring a stock. I think you will be pleased with the results.

Shrimp Stock
(Mark Kelly, 2012)

Makes about 3 quarts

4 cups chopped onion
2 cups chopped carrot
2 cups chopped celery
2 Tbsp canola oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4-6 quarts shrimp shells or 2 ½ pounds large fresh shrimp
½ cup whole garlic cloves
5 bay leaves
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
2 sprigs sage
6 Tbsp tomato paste
1 gallon water

Preheat oven to 450F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. In a large bowl, toss onion, carrot and celery with vegetable oil. Spread the mixture onto the prepared pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast 30 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

If using fresh shrimp, peel shrimp under cold water reserving shells and meat. Cover and refrigerate the shrimp until ready to use.

In a very large heavy-bottomed pot, cook shrimp and shells over high heat 3 to 4 minutes or until they turn pink. If using shells only boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Add roasted vegetables, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and sage. Add tomato paste; cook, stirring frequently, until paste begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Deglaze the pot with a bot of water.

Add the remaining water to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer 40 to 45 minutes. Strain mixture, reserving the liquid.

Use the stock immediately or freeze in plastic containers for up to 6 months.

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Shrimp Gumbo

While in St. Petersburg, Florida Ample Bites was able to buy some fresh, large Gulf shrimp. Inspired by this bounty, I adapted a recipe from a friend who has been making gumbo since he was a young man growing up in Louisiana. My adaptation used the fresh shrimp and some smoked turkey sausage. The keys to a good shrimp gumbo are the roux and fresh shrimp stock. Enjoy!

Shrimp Gumbo
(Adapted from Tebo’s Seafood Gumbo)

Serves 10

2 ½ to 3 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 ½ lbs of smoked turkey sausage, sliced ½” thick
2 large onions, chopped
1 ½ tsp crushed garlic
2 16 oz cans diced tomatoes with liquid
1 medium bell pepper
1 bunch green onions, green and white parts finely chopped
1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
4 cups sliced okra (optional)
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp liquid crab boil
½ cup canola oil
5/8 cup all-purpose flour
2 ½ quarts of Shrimp Stock
4 bay leaves

After peeling shrimp, save the shells and heads for the Shrimp Stock. Prepare the Shrimp Stock by boiling them in 3 quarts of water with 1 teaspoon of the crab boil for about 15 minutes, set aside and allow the stock to cool. Strain the stock before using.

Place the onions and garlic in one container, place tomatoes, bell pepper and green onion in a second container, and place okra in a third container. Mix seasonings (salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and the remaining crab boil) and set aside.

Make roux by heating oil in a heavy Dutch oven. Add flour slowly, stirring constantly until the roux is very dark brown. Be careful not to burn the roux. Alternatively, the roux can be made in a microwave by thoroughly mixing the oil and flour in an ovenproof container. Heat on HIGH in the microwave for 3 minutes. Remove the roux and stir it thoroughly. Repeat the process in one-minute intervals until the desire color of roux is reached.

In a heavy Dutch oven, add the onions and garlic to the roux. Heat on high, stirring constantly, until the onions are caramelized, about 12 minutes. Again, be careful not to burn the roux. Add the tomatoes, bell pepper and green onions. Add the shrimp stock, okra, seasonings and bay leaves and stir thoroughly. Bring the gumbo to a boil.

While the gumbo is coming to a boil, brown the turkey sausage in a skillet with some canola oil. Drain the sausage on a paper towel-covered plate and add the sausage to the gumbo. Reduce the heat and simmer the gumbo, covered, for about 40 minutes.

Before serving bring the gumbo back to a boil and add the peeled shrimp. Simmer for about 6-8 minutes until the shrimp are pink. Let stand 15-30 minutes and remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve 8-10 ounces of gumbo with about 1/3 cup of rice. Add file and hot sauce to taste.

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Shrimp Stock for Cioppino

Making you own Shrimp Stock, for use in zuppa di mare, Cioppino or seafood risotto, is easy and fresh shrimp stock adds a deep layer of flavor unattainable with the use of a vegetable stock.

Do-it-yourself shrimp stock does take some planning. Primarily, you need to save shells from the shrimp that you peel for cooking. Ample Bites always buys raw, frozen shrimp and freezes the shells in zip-top plastic bags until I have at least a loosely-packed quart.

These shrimp shells seem, at first glance, to be of little value but there is a tremendous amount of flavor clinging to them. To make the Shrimp Stock Ample Bites uses the following recipe:

Shrimp Stock

1 – 1 1/2 quart of loosely-packed shrimp shells
2 medium yellow onions, chopped coarsely
2 stalks of celery, chopped coarsely
2 medium-sized carrots, chopped coarsely
1 clove of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tsp sea salt
1 bundle bouquet garni (5 sprigs of thyme, 2 bay leaves, 10 black peppercorns, 3 sprigs of parsley wrapped and tied in a piece of cheesecloth)
4 quarts cold water

Rinse the shrimp shells under cold water and place them in a stockpot with the remaining ingredients. Bring the stock to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes. Turn the heat back to medium and cook uncovered for about 30 minutes. Allow the stock to cool and then strain through a fine strainer. If you will not be using the stock immediately you can store it in the refrigerator for 2-3 day or freeze in a sealed plastic container for about one month.

What did I tell you? Really easy, right? The scariest part for most home cooks is the term “bouquet garni” If you have cheesecloth, kitchen twine and the listed ingredients, it takes 2-3 minutes to put this element of the stock together.

A favorite Ample Bites recipe incorporating shrimp stock is Cioppino, sometimes called a seafood stew. The following recipe serves six.


2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2” chunks
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 16-oz can whole tomatoes, undrained, crushed by hand
½ tsp, crushed red chile peppers
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
2 bay leaves, broken in half
1 medium green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and roughly chopped
1 cup shrimp stock or bottled clam juice
½ cup dry white wine
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
18 mussels, rinsed and debearded
2 lbs boneless, skinless haddock or cod filets, cut into 1 ½” chunks
3 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp minced fresh parsley

Bring a large pot of slated water to a boil and add potatoes; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a 6-qt pot over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes, chile flakes, garlic, onions, bay leaves, and peppers and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 12 minutes. Add fish stock, wine and salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add fish and continue to cook, cover, until all of the mussels are opened and the fish is cooked through, 5-6 minutes more.

To serve, transfer fish stew to a large serving bowl and sprinkle with half the parsley and cilantro. Place the potatoes in another serving dish, sprinkle with remaining cilantro and parsley and serve alongside stew.

Ample Bites hopes you find the value in saving shrimp shells for Shrimp Stock. Enjoy the Cioppino while the weather is still relative cool. Mangia!

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