By Meda Kessler
Photos by Jen Burner
For some, Fat Tuesday heralds a Lenten season of meatless Fridays and an uptick in fish consumption. While “grilled, fried or baked” are the most common options, there are flavorful alternatives. We found three takes on a fish stew, a dish full of fruits de mer that is rustic yet elegant, with distinctive textures and layered flavors.
In midwinter, Press Cafe owner-chef Felipe Armenta introduced a terrific bowl of mussels as a special. Soon after, executive chef Celestino Ramirez and a collaboration of cooks offered their creation, a spicy bouillabaisse that’s now a permanent addition to the menu. The dramatic depth of flavors found in the generous portion — more than enough for two to share as a sizable appetizer — starts in the fish stock, rendered from cooking whole halibut bones under the broiler before a long simmering with fennel, carrots and onions. The stew incorporates tomato, garlic, white wine, saffron, paprika and chiles de arbol in a kicky bath that holds a generous portion of mussels, scallops, shrimp and crab legs. A sprinkling of chopped chives, parsley and mint tempers some of the spice. Soak up the irresistible sauce with a griddled plank of herbed, garlicky sourdough.
4801 Edwards Ranch Road, FortWorth, 817-570-6002, presscafeftworth.com
Lili’s Bistro on Magnolia
You know the experience. You’re drawn to order a dish because it’s already familiar, a sure thing, but when it arrives you find a preparation so on point that it feels like you’ve discovered new dimensions in a very old friend. That’s the sort of appreciation we feel for the layered flavors of the seafood ragout— an Italian-American classic — served at Lili’s Bistro in Fort Worth’s Fairmount neighborhood. Lili’s owner Vance Martin swears this is his favorite dish. Newly converted, we offer mad props to a chef who understands that saffron is a spice that deserves respect — a little goes a long way. The same goes for cumin seed. Generous amounts of crab, calamari and shrimp, each perfectly al dente, join lightly caramelized scallops piled atop ribbons of pappardelle on a fresh basil tomato base. Comfort food, thy name is this ragout.
1310 W.MagnoliaAve., FortWorth, 817-877-0700, lilisbistro.com
Ferrari’s Italian Villa & Chop House
While bouillabaisse hails from France and features a saffron-kissed fish-based stock, cioppino has its roots in Italy and San Francisco. The rich tomato-based broth is typically spiked with a healthy dash of vino. And, then, of course, there is the mix of fish and shellfish. At Ferrari’s, the family-owned establishment in Grapevine, a roasted lobster tail takes the starring role, surrounded by a school of clams, shrimp, mussels, rings of calamari and chunks of fish in a broth with a hint of spice. This satisfying mix requires a fork, spoon and the side of toasted ciabatta for full enjoyment. A nice glass of sangiovese is a plus.
1200 William D. Tate Ave., Grapevine, 817-251-2525, ferrarisrestaurant.com