Cioppino

Heather says:

Let’s say it together chia, like the pet, peeno. Most recipes I offer here on Home Ec 101 are budget friendly in nature. This one isn’t, unless you happen on some rocking seafood sales. According to Foodtimeline.org, cioppino is believed to have evolved in the San Francisco Bay area. I became a fan during my chef days. I suggest this meal for company for several reasons. The most important is seafood isn’t the same reheated.Much of the work can be done the day before leaving little actual cooking the day of your event, and while the Cioppino recipe may look intimidating the skills required are basic. Do not worry if you cannot find all of the seafood items, simply increase the amount of another or substitute a similar item. If you can’t find clams, mussels work very well, use sea or bay scallops, as long as the fish you choose has a firm white flesh, everything will be a-ok. This version has a spicy kick, if you need milder fare, simply reduce the red pepper flakes by half or more.

Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Serve with crusty bread for dipping.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 onions – diced small
  • 4 garlic cloves – minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (reduce if needed)
  • 1 1/2 tsps salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper diced small
  • 2 TBSPs tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine (dry is best, but I usually only have cabernet or shiraz on hand)
  • 1 28oz can whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup bottled clam juice
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 lb dungenness crab, thawed if frozen
  • 12 small (2-inch) hard-shelled clams such as littlenecks
  • 1 pound skinless halibut fillets, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 pound shrimp (16 to 20), shelled and deveined
  • 1 pound scallops (if you use sea scallops remove the tough muscle  from the side of each)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

onions-and-spicesIn a large pot, an 8qt stock pot is perfect, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then add the diced onion, garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper, bay leaf, salt, and black pepper. Cook for about three minutes, stirring occasionally, the onion should just start to get soft. It’s important to add the spices at the start, as the heat releases the flavor from the spices and peppers, infusing them into the olive oil. It would be a very different experience if the bay leaf, oregano, and crushed red pepper were added as an afterthought.

add-tomato-paste Add the tomato paste and bell pepper and cook for another two minutes, stirring occasionally.

simmering-stew-base Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Once simmering the liquid volume should be reduced by about half, this will take from 5 – 10 minutes, stir occasionally, but don’t get worked up worrying whether or not it is exactly half. It is an estimation. This concentrates the flavors in the soup base. While the base is simmering drain the can of tomatoes into a container (you need the juice!) and roughly chop them into bite sized pieces. Get your chicken broth and clam juice ready, too. Once the liquid volume has reduced by half, add the tomatoes, tomato juice, clam juice, and chicken broth. Bring to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to be sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of your pot. It’d be downright depressing to get this far.

If you are making the soup ahead of time, this is the point to cool it and store until needed. If you are not cooking ahead of time, get the seafood ready while the base simmers. Break the crab into somewhat even pieces. I divide by the number of guests making sure everyone at least gets one leg. Scrub the clams or mussels, rinse them again just in case. With the money going into this meal, you do not want it ruined by grit. OK, just one more rinse to be sure. Cut the halibut into 1″ chunks and sprinkle very lightly with salt. Toss the scallops and shrimp together and also sprinkle them very lightly with salt. Before adding the seafood make sure you have a slotted spoon or tongs nearby and two bowls you’ll need these to remove the clams during the next few steps.

open-clamFirst, with the base still simmering, add the clams, shells and all, and the crab. Cover and cook for five minutes. After five minutes, set the crab legs aside in one of your bowls and begin fishing out the open clams. I remove the crab, as it just gets in the way for this part. We do this in stages because we don’t want to overcook the clams and have them turn to rubber. If ten minutes have passed and any of the clams are still tightly closed, discard the clams,they aren’t good to eat.

After all the clams have been set aside, add the basil and optional parsley, then add the fish followed by the shrimp and scallops.

cioppino-in-potAdd the crab back to the pot. Cook for 3 – 5 minutes. After three minutes look carefully at one of the shrimp, if it is pink and the flesh is firm add the clams and give the soup a good stir, remove from the heat.

Serve immediately and don’t forget a small plate at each setting for discarded shells.

Enjoy!



11 Comments

  1. Judy Hamby on February 23, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    I am so sorry everyone took my comments as rude. I stated I thought it sound interesting but a lot of us cannot begin to afford even as an occasional treat. I reread my statement and did not feel it was “smarky” just honest. Don’t allow me to rain on your parade. As far as trying to cruise the site, I was simply asking for help so I could take advantage of all these wonderful tips. Sorry, will not post again.

  2. Heather on February 23, 2009 at 5:35 am

    Thanks everyone.

    And Keter, gumbo is love, ’nuff said. 😉

  3. Keter on February 22, 2009 at 9:04 pm

    Fabulous recipe, Heather! I also appreciated your chef tips about how and when to add spices and ingredients so they cook together flavorfully without getting overcooked. Littleneck clams are my favorite!

    For the budget minded who are craving seafood, may I suggest a variant of gumbo? My last batch was inspired by some frozen flounder I had purchased on sale that was quite frankly awful – it apparently had been injected with water to increase the weight and then frozen – and when I baked the first piece, it gushed out water and turned to mush! The ingredients for gumbo are fairly cheap, and it can be made in a large quantity and frozen for a quick dinner later (I think gumbo is the only seafood recipe that is as good reheated as fresh). That mushy fish, which otherwise would have been a total loss, plus some local spicy sausage made up a huge batch that averaged less than $2 a serving.

    Another cheap (and quick to make) dish is stir fried rice with shrimp. Use frozen teeny peeled salad shrimp (grass shrimp) – watch for these to go on sale and stock up. I’ve gotten them for $1 for 8 oz., and that’s all you need for this dish. Those little shrimp have all the flavor of big ones!

  4. Bill Cecchini on February 22, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Hi Heather!

    I’m actually drooling. I wish I was a good/creative cook like you!

    Don’t worry so much about Judy’s comment. If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that people are very courageous (and often rude and inconsiderate) on blogs. They think that they can say anything they want because they’re well-hidden behind the invisibility of the internet. A wise person once taught me a lesson…something about not saying anything if I don’t have anything nice to say…

    Constructive criticism is helpful when said in a loving, helpful, and encouraging manner.

    I think your site is fine. Also, I know that if I want to buy some fresh seafood (I’m a broke college kid, mind you), that I can very easily make some wise financial decisions, save my money, and eventually buy the dinner of my choice. It’s really not that tough…”economy” or not.

    I apologize. I don’t mean to start a fight. Lousy comments really get under my skin.

    Bill 🙂

  5. Badbadivy on February 22, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Judy, your comment is a fine example of what’s frustrating sometimes about writing this site. People don’t read the post in its entirety and then they complain about something that’s already been addressed in the post. The very first paragraph, Heather talks about how this is expensive for every day, but works for- oooh, look! the title clearly says! company dinner. Sometimes, you want to cook to impress. This recipe is for one of those times.

    I’m sorry if I sound harsh, but this is getting tougher and tougher to abide.

  6. Annoyed Regular on February 22, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Wow how rude. If you don’t like it or can’t swing it, don’t make it. I don’t see her saying you have to make this every day. Special occasions. Seriously. It’s soup. Frozen food is cheap. Substitute things, it’s not hard.
    As for the site, it’s called a search engine. It’s at the top of the page. Try it out.
    Change is good.
    So is soup.

  7. Heather on February 22, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    Michelle:
    Use beef bouillon or increase the chicken broth, clam juice, or tomato juice. Just add it in place of the wine, but keep the procedure the same, including the reduction step.
    Judy:
    1) It was clearly noted that this meal is an exception to the usually frugal meals available on this site and don’t worry, my splurge budget can’t take too many of these recipes, it was just a special treat much cheaper than a meal out at the fancy restaurant I was craving.

    2) There is an FAQ that answers your question, but the old style blog format that you are looking for is accessible under the Read It button, that takes you to a page almost exactly like our old layout.

    3) All older articles are under the archives button in the sidebar.

  8. Judy Hamby on February 22, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    Your recipe sounds interesting but way to expensive in these financial trying times. Besides fresh seafood is hard (and expensive)to come by the a large majority of us. One thing off the subject, every since you change your page I find it extremely hard to read and understand. Your old one was so much better. I really don’t understand the things on the right. Also, how do you find some of your older articles. Maybe you should do a tutorial on how to navigate your site.

  9. Michele on February 22, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    Sounds fabulous! I want to try this but what can I substitute for red wine?

  10. Heather on February 22, 2009 at 5:00 am

    Absolutely. The finished soup will have a heartier flavor, but many people recommend substituting beef broth for wine if cooking for those who abstain. Enjoy!

  11. Candide on February 21, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for this interesting recipe; I will try it this week if I can find a good place to buy fresh seafood. Just a question, is it possible to use beef broth instead of chicken broth? Thanks

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