This stripped-down stew with clean, bright flavors is on Mario Batali's menu for his last meal on Earth. It cries out for a big piece of crusty bread. It's a little messy to eat, because the shrimp are whole or tails-on, but that merely adds to the dish's informal charm.
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice (1 1/2 cups)
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons seeded and chopped hot chili peppers, such as red jalapeño
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped into 1/2-inch dice, fronds reserved (2 cups)
- 1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand, with juice
- 2 cups dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
- 1/2 cup seawater, or 1/2 cup water mixed with 1 to 2 teaspoons salt
- 16 jumbo shrimp, peeled, heads and/or tails on
- Freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat until it is almost smoking. Add the onion, garlic, chili pepper and fennel; cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is soft and light golden brown. Add the tomatoes and their juices, the wine, and the seawater or salted water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook for about 5 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Season with black pepper to taste.
To serve, pour into a soup tureen or divide among individual deep bowls; garnish with the reserved fennel fronds.
Adapted from "My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals," by Melanie Dunea (Bloomsbury, 2007).
Tested by Joe Yonan.
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