I’ve made cioppino, a San Francisco favorite, for a few Christmas Eve’s recently. Cioppino is a seafood stew with a tomato base, and usually has a white fish (in this case halibut), some shellfish and crab. It’s hearty, warm and, other than all the chopping, pretty easy to make. Plus, it pairs well with a light red wine like a pinot noir, so it’s perfect for the holidays.
It’s pronounced “cho pinot” and I can never spell it!
I’ve adapted this recipe after experimenting with it several times. The novel ingredient, at least in my mind, is the fennel. It’s not something that I cook with usually, and has a strong smell/flavor that really blends into the stew in a way that I wouldn’t expect.
Here is the cioppino recipe:
Cioppino (seafood stew) recipe
As much butter and olive oil as you want – maybe 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium-sized yellow onion, chopped (see below for how big for all chopped ingredients)
2 medium-sized carrots, peeled & chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 small shallots, chopped (you can use 1 leek instead, but I had shallots)
1⁄2 small fennel bulb, chopped (also called star anise in some grocery stores, although trying to read about the difference between star anise and fennel gets pretty confusing)
2 28-oz. cans/boxes crushed Italian tomatoes
4 tbsp. tomato paste
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano (I used 3 tsp of fresh)
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried basil (I used 3 tsp of fresh)
2 pinches cayenne (I did not put this in because my kid can’t handle it, but I recommend it)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup red wine, I used a pinot (make sure the red wine goes with fish! I try the wine with a shrimp before adding to make sure it doesn’t give off a fishy/metallic taste with the fish).
1 can fish stock or clam juice or clam stock (make sure you don’t use asian fish sauce, which is pretty different. And if you have to, you can use chicken or vegetable stock, but I highly recommend a seafood stock)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 lbs. halibut filet, cut into 3/4 inch or 1 inch pieces
1/4 lbs sea scallops
1/4 large shrimp, peeled & deveined (you can also use cooked, which you’ll add later in the cooking process, just to warm)
1 lb oz. cooked crab (the crab is pretty important. You can use a tin of already done crab meat, or since I’m in the San Francisco area, I usually use Dungeness crab. This year I used King crab because the Dungeness wasn’t available). Deshell the crab into big pieces.
1/4 lbs clams or muscles
1⁄2 bunch parsley, chopped
Everything that is chopped should be just over diced in size – about 1/3 of an inch square.
In a large pot, heat the oil and the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and celery and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes (the onions should not yet bet translucent, but should be getting softer). Add the carrots, peppers, shallots (or leek), and fennel and cook on medium heat, stirring often, for about 8 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, stir. Then add the tomato paste, bay leaves, oregano, thyme, basil, wine, fish/clam stock, and cayenne (optional) and season to taste with salt and pepper. Increase the head to bring the pot to a boil, then, stir and reduce the heat to low. Simmer the pot for 30 minutes to 2 hours (the longer the better, as the flavors will meld).
Add the clams or mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the shrimp, scallops and fish. (Some cioppino recipes pan fry the shrimp, scallops and fish prior to adding to the stew, but I like to let them cook in the liquid to soak up the flavors). Simmer gently, stirring often) until the fish and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, add the cooked crab and cook about 5 minutes longer (discard any clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and pepper.
Add pinch of chopped parsley to each bowl of cioppino, and serve with garlic bread.
So, that’s Healy Jones’ holiday cioppino recipe.