One of my favorite dishes in the world is Cioppino, Italian style fish stew. As with most dishes, there are probably as many recipes for Cioppino as there are people who love it. Not wanting to be left out, I offer up my take on the classic dish. As always, look at this as a starting point. Take away items you don’t like, add in ones that you do. Have fun!
Shopping list (Makes 4 servings)
4-5 cloves garlic, shaved into thin slices
1 large onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small tin anchovy filets (10-15 should do it)
1 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1 8 ounce jar of clam juice
¼ cup butter
2 cups shellfish stock ( can substitute fish stock if you like )
2 cups good red wine
a dried spice mix of 1 T each of salt, pepper, thyme, crushed fennel seeds, crushed rosemary leaves and 2-3 T of oregano.
Fresh basil, about a good ½ cup chopped
Fresh Parsley or Cilantro
Any mix of the following:
Fresh, uncooked shrimp, shell on
Firm white fish such as halibut or sea bass
Squid ( rings and tentacles )
Okay, now the fun starts. In a large, at least 8 qt stock pot over medium high heat, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Toss in the anchovies and let them melt into the oil, then toss in the garlic, onion, pepper and celery and allow to sweat. Don’t let them burn or caramelize. Once the onion goes transparent, toss in the can of diced tomatoes, wine, clam juice and seafood stock. Note: Next time you have crab, lobster or shell on shrimp, save the shells and freeze them. You can make your own seafood stock from the shells. Once this comes to a low boil, reduce the heat to low and toss in the dried spice mix and bay leaves. Let this simmer slowly for at least 30-60 minutes. You can skip this long simmer if you are short on time, but to me the slow simmer is worth it. The house smells great, and the canned tomatoes start to break down a little.
After the simmer, toss in the butter, tabasco to taste and the juice from the lemon. For an extra kick, zest the lemon and toss in as well. Bring the stock back up to a low boil. Now comes the time to toss in the seafood. Remember that most shell fish does not take long to cook, and in fact will get rubbery and tough if over cooked. Toss in your seafood and the chopped basil. Do NOT add the basil before this point. Please. I beg you. Okay, I’m back now. Let the seafood cook until the shrimp go pink, the mussels open up ( make sure you toss any that don’t open), lobster is red, meat opaque. If you are going to add the calamari and it’s fresh, add it right before serving. Trust me, the heat of the stock will cook the squid in 1-2 minutes tops. You cook it more than that and you’re serving sliced inner tubes.
That’s it! Ladle the cioppino into large bowls, garnish with some parsley and serve with some crusty Italian bread and a glass of Chianti. Don’t butter the bread, let the broth shine on it’s own. Give your guests an empty salad plate so they have a place to put the shells and dig in. Oh, one last tip. Don’t worry about getting out the nice white table cloth for this meal. 🙂