Cioppino is one of the most popular seafood stews that you can order at piers and fish markets. Originating in San Francisco, it features what is usually the catch of the day. The ingredients will vary depending on where you order it and what's being caught, but it's always a treat to have. When I was in San Francisco a few years ago, I was able to order a bowl at Fisherman's Wharf and I've recreated a version of it at home. Please give this a try!
1 Large Onion
2-3 Stalks of Celery
1 Large Shallot
6 Cloves Garlic
2 Cups White Wine
Hot Chili Flakes
1 Large Can (35 oz) Tomatoes
For 1 Large Pot, Cioppino for 2 at restaurants can cost $30-45 dollars. Making this at home will lessen that cost to about $10 a person, depending on what seafood you add in.
-Want more Italian influence? Toss in a bay leaf or some oregano. It will add some earthy flavors to the stew. I opted this part out of my own stews because I prefer the fresh sweetness of all the seafood.
-Chopped, pureed, or whole tomatoes all work for this recipe!
-Serve with some delicious garlic bread!
-Mix and match your seafood!
-Add a slight sour tang to your soup with lemon juice, or sneak in a few capers!
-If using shrimp, save your shells and make a wonderful shrimp stock to bolster your flavor profiles! I just made a post earlier this week about making your own shrimp stock.
-If you want to mellow the sharp tomato flavor of the stock, simmer your vegetable base mixture for longer before adding your seafood!
-Prepare mise en place!
-Overcook your seafood.
-Over salt the stew. When cooking seafood, always account for the natural salt factor that comes in a lot of seafood.
Try using a variety! I'm partial to using:
-Fish (any white fish will do: Tilapia, swai basa, cod, etc)
Classic Cioppino must have dungeness crab too! I'm personally a bit lazy to work for all that delicious crab meat, but you might not be! Be sure to steam/cook your crabs beforehand. I promise you it will be amazing.
To clean your seafood, scrub your mussels and clams to get rid of debris on their shells. If freshly bought, soak your clams and mussels in a mixture of water, a few tsp of salt, and 1 cup of flour, corn starch, or corn meal. This makes the shellfish pump out the debris in their gut. Fresh seafood is always the best, but I never look down on using frozen seafood. In fact, some frozen seafood is more fresh than what you can buy at your local market! They're usually frozen shortly after being caught. Finally, remember to remove the sand vein from shrimp, crack your crab claws, and give everything a rinse!
And don't skimp out! It's primarily a seafood stew for a reason. You're mostly eating all the seafood that you put in!
The Vegetable Base:
Start by chopping your celery, onion, shallots and garlic. Saute your vegetables directly in your pot with olive oil, salt, pepper, and hot chili flakes. Once translucent, add your white wine (I like using chardonnay). Shortly after, you can add your tomatoes and seafood stock into the pot. You can just use plain water in a pinch (but why would you?). When your pot comes to a boil, you're just about ready to serve.
One of the best things about making Cioppino is that once you have reached this step, you can turn off the heat and wait until your guests arrive. You prepare everything ahead of time and still have time to take care of other things!
When ready to serve:
Make sure your pot is at a medium boil and add your seafood into the pot. Everything can go in at the same time, but you might want to save the fish for last (fish is prone is crumble and fall apart in this stew). Try adding in the fish halfway through boiling and place them on top of all of your ingredients, making sure they're still submerged in the stew. Bring your pot back up to a boil, and in about 10 minutes, your Ciopinno is ready to serve! Be sure to discard any unopened shellfish (if you're wondering, yes they taste funky. Don't pry them open).
Remember to taste for seasoning and do some final adjustments. Sprinkle in chopped parsley, ladle into a bowl, and enjoy one of the most amazing fish stews in the world. The sweet juices of all the seafood combining with your vegetable and tomato base makes for an absolutely gorgeous soup. The hint of spice from the chili is a great undertone to balance the fresh flavors, so do try to keep it in the recipe!
Seafood, Eat Food Diet!