IMG_5437.JPGI had had quite a grueling day; not much sleep and up at 5am to get to work to do inventory, a task which is requisite once a month on the last day but exhausting and stressful. Around 3pm I biked to downtown Berkeley to meet my wife for merienda but I had consumed so much coffee that day that more caffeine simply didn’t make any sense. I must have looked pretty beleaguered because she took a pic of me and yah, I was just physically wasted.

When I got home I lay down for a bit and semi-dozed for twenty minutes, but…but…I wanted something for dinner. All I had eaten for the day was a breakfast of two poached eggs and some hash browns at 10am and the urge to cook was on me.

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Earlier that day I had read in the New York Times of another Catalan-inspired dish from David Tanis. This one, Catalan Stew with Lobster and Clams sounded mighty fine to me, but there was a problem: the lobster meat alone would have cost something in the neighborhood of thirty clams (and I stand by that pun) so I dialed it back a bit and got some fresh head-on shrimp…but even that turned out to be around $18.

When spending that much money on any crustaceans, I’m thinking that every last bit of that body from head-to-tail should be used, and it was as you will see. One of the first things I did was to remove the heads and shells from the shrimp and collect it into a pot of water, from which a fairly luxuriant broth might be extracted. There would be more than enough broth than the recipe called for, so I could save the rest and freeze it for another dish down the road.

It also called for extra layers of flavor, starting with the romesco sauce. Romesco in Spain is typically a mix of peppers, dried and fried bread, toasted nuts, as well as some sort of tomato sauce. This involved frying the bread in oil, roasting the chestnuts and almonds in the oven, in addition to the fish broth. In deference to my wife’s susceptible gums, I eschewed any real hot peppers (ancho or Nora though the latter to my recollection is barely as hot as a green bell, but…) but did include the piquillo peppers which I know from experience are very mild and there had to be some flavorful note typical of Spain in this dish. Spanish food, in any case, is rarely spicy.

So the romesco is made, the onions await the addition of that heady mixture, and this will be followed with some tomato purée, white wine and ultimately the shrimp-infused broth. While it simmers, I will adjust the seasoning…I’ve already added a soupçon of salt and pepper, but the flavors of the romesco are already so appealing, it doesn’t need much.

Now the Littleneck clams are dropped in, followed shortly once they open up by the shrimp. A sprinkling of parsley and perhaps a bit of lemon juice and these bowls of romesco shrimp and clams should be ready.

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My wife’s excellent nose picked up on onions and shrimp cooking earlier and…well, her ability to decipher her olfactory input still astounds me. Meanwhile, I’m keeping a close eye on the clams to make sure they all open up nicely.

(Hmm…only about a third of these opened up properly so far, which is bothersome. I’ll give them another five minutes with the shrimp to see how they go)…and yah, they are all good!

I chop up some parsley and in a few minutes, the stew is ready. Enough for three servings, it appears. Restaurant quality dish, if I say so myself.

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