I've seen a couple of variants of this recipe on TV shows, advertised as "Greek" or "Italian". It occurred to me, that, with minor alterations, you could make this dish with different personalities so that it could taste Greek, Italian, Spanish, Moroccan or any country surrounding the Mediterranean.
This dish is fabulous and so easy to make. This recipe is for four, but can easily be doubled to serve eight. I like to serve it in the pan it is cooked in. If you have a paella pan, that would be perfect. If not, a large skillet will do nicely for four people, 2 skillets for eight.
The idea here is to build a base with fennel and tomatoes flavored with a fennel or anise-based liquor. The base is then topped with your choice of shellfish topped with seasoned breadcrumbs topped with grated or crumbled cheese. The pan is then cooked in a hot oven until the shellfish is cooked.
You have lots of choices to make. Appropriate seafoods are shrimp, scallops, calamari, mussels, clams and firm fish. Use a combination of two or more if you wish. There is also a wide choice of fennel-flavored liquors to choose from: Finocchietto from Italy, Ouzo from Greece, Pernod and Ricard from France, Ojen from Spain, Kasra from Libya and some versions of Arak from several middle-eastern countries.
Pick the cheese you want depending on what part of the Mediterranean you want to emphasize. e.g., feta for Greece, manchego for Spain or parmagiano for Italy.
Serve this dish with a green salad and plenty of great bread for sopping.
1 Large Fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
1/4 Cup EVOO
3 Cloves Garlic, minced (or more to taste)
1/2 Cup White wine
1 14-oz Can Tomatoes with juice, preferably D.O.P. San Marzano
2 Tsp tomato paste
1 Tsp Dried oregano, or 2 Tsp fresh
2 Tbs Anise-flavored liquor
1 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Pepper
1 Cup Fresh-made or Panko breadcrumbs
3 Tbs Chopped parsley
Grated zest of a lemon
1+ Lbs Seafood
1 Cup Grated or crumbled cheese
Lemon juice and EVOO for drizzling
Sauté the fennel in 2 Tbs EVOO 8-10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds, stirring. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Cook until the wine is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes and the tomato paste, breaking up the tomatoes (if whole with a wooden utensil. Add the oregano and liquor, salt and pepper and cook 15 minutes, stirring often. While the tomatoes are cooking, mix together the breadcrumbs, lemons zest, the chopped parsley and 2 Tbs EVOO.
Layer the seafood on top of the base, sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture and then with the grated or crumbled cheese. Up to this point, you can refrigerate the pan to be cooked at a later time.
Preheat the oven to 450°. Place the pan in the upper third of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until the seafood is cooked and everything is heated through.
Drizzle EVOO and lemon juice over the dish and serve at once.