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Originally published Monday, December 17, 2012 at 6:00 AM

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Recipe: Holiday seafood stew

2 tablespoons olive oil 1 medium leek, white part only, diced and rinsed 1 medium yellow onion, diced 2 large garlic cloves, minced 1 cup...

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium leek, white part only, diced and rinsed

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 cup dry white wine

1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice

1 large pinch saffron, seeped in 1/4 cup hot water

14 ounces (1 can) best-quality Roma tomatoes, crushed with their juice

1 dozen littleneck clams, well rinsed

2 pounds mussels, debearded if necessary

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

12 ounces red snapper, skin on, cut into four pieces

4 squid tubes, cut into 1/4-inch ringlets, and 4 sets of tentacles

1/2 pound medium-large (21-25 count) shrimp, completely peeled, deveined and partially butterflied

3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Step one: Buy the best ingredients you can. Canned Italian San Marzano tomatoes market "DOP" (Denominazione d'Origine Protetta) are the best (sweetest and fleshiest) variety of plum tomato grown in a specific region in southern Italy. It's a bit more expensive, but so worth it. Make sure to get very clean farmed shellfish so you won't get any grit in the bottom of the pot.

Step two: Prepare all the ingredients. The onions and leeks should be diced and placed together in a small bowl. The garlic should be minced, placed in a small dish and covered with just enough olive oil to keep it from drying out. If the tomatoes are whole, place them with their juices into a mixing bowl and squish them into bits with your fingers. Soak the saffron in a small glass.

Pull the beards off the mussels. Soak the mussels and clams in cold tap water for 30 minutes then drain. Peel and half butterfly the shrimp. Cut the squid, and poke your finger in its cavity to make sure the clear cartilage is gone. Chop your herbs and place them in a small bowl. Put all this in the fridge.

Step three: Assemble the stew. Heat a large, table-worthy Dutch oven or cocotte over a medium flame. Add the oil, then the leeks and onions. Cook two minutes, just until the vegetables are translucent. Add the garlic and stir until just fragrant. Turn heat to high. Add the wine and bring to a boil; let reduce by half. Add the clam juice, the saffron and the crushed tomato and stir. Add the clams and mussels and cover the pot. Check in four minutes. If the mussels are open and the clams are opening, you're good to go. Season with salt and pepper.

Reduce heat to medium; the liquid should be at an active simmer. Push the mussels and clams to the side and add the fish fillets to the center of the pot. Cover and cook for three minutes. Open and carefully push the fish fillets to the side. Add the shrimp and squid and give them a stir just until they start to turn opaque. Turn off heat and cover pot.

The stew can sit like this for 15-20 minutes. When ready to serve, taste for seasoning and sprinkle with herbs.

Note: The recipe serves four. If you wish to double it, make it in two pots.

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