Cioppino

It’s a very welcome cloudy and cool start to August here in Central Virginia.  Another good day to be in the kitchen.  My plan was to make and can peach salsa this morning; make bread this afternoon; make Cioppino for dinner.  I can be overly ambitious sometimes.  Turns out standing in my kitchen that long, even in my cross trainers, is pretty hard on the lower back.  I decided it would be okay to buy the bread.  I did turn 1/2 a peck of peaches and a pint of jalapenos (and a few other things) into six pints of peach salsa.  Safely canned and labeled for use when the Winter descends.  And I did make Cioppino.

For over a year I’ve been wanting to make Cioppino, but it’s never come together until today.  For anyone unfamiliar, Cioppino is a seafood stew with Italian origins that’s traditionally made from whatever the fresh fish of the day is combined with other available seafood and cooked in a tomato and wine broth.  It’s served either over pasta or with a hearty bread for soaking up the broth.  It’s best known in the San Fransisco Bay area.  I’m pretty excited about it.

I looked for a while for a recipe that suited me.  I found many, many recipes that call for fennel.  You may or may not know that I have healthy suspicion of fennel.  I just feel like if there was supposed to be licorice flavoring in entree type food more recipes would include Twizzlers in the ingredients list.  But my commitment to making cioppino has led me to a temporary suspension of the fennel moratorium.  It’s a big step.  Of course now that I’ve made this tremendous step in my culinary journey I found a recipe that I like that has no fennel.  Let’s assume my willingness to use fennel is enough.

This recipe serves eight, but I don’t need that much so I reduced the recipe, not exactly, but kind of by half.  So, so good.  Really.  Just exactly what I needed.  Yummy tomato and seafood broth.  Yummy sourdough to dip in it.  A lovely Chardonnay to accompany it.  A very good dinner indeed.  I substituted the fish in the recipe for fish that was a little more readily available and a little less expensive.  I did get fresh clams and I always get wild caught shrimp from the Carolinas if I can find it. I left out the lobster.  Of course I used tomatoes from last year’s garden stash and I like to believe that makes all the difference.  I kept them whole, knowing they would break down in cooking, rather than use a puree.  I used sweet onions instead of shallots because I had them.  I used my own shrimp stock from the freezer. Use good wine. You really taste it in this and the flavor is intensified since you reduce it twice. Drink the rest while you eat! I used a Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay.

I can’t imagine serving this over pasta.  The bread is really all you need.  One of the best of the one pot meals I’ve ever made.  It takes some prep work,  but it’s just chopping.  I’d say this is time consuming, but not difficult. I did all my chopping, dicing, deveining and measuring in the afternoon so putting dinner together was a snap really.  You reduce the liquid a couple of times, but that doesn’t require constant babysitting.  I was able to get the kitchen cleaned up and a few other things done in the mean time.  The recipe below reflects my changes.  To see the original from Fulton County Fish Market just click on the title link.

Good? So, so good.
Easy? Not difficult, but involved.
Good for company? Absolutely.
Special shopping?

Cioppino

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 pounds mahi, cut into 2-inch squares
1/2 pound sea bass, cut into 2-inch squares
1 pound large shrimp
2 cups shrimp stock
2 cups whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon honey
Few dashes hot sauce (recommended: Bobby Flay Hot Sauce)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
Salt and freshly ground pepper
16 littleneck clams
1 tbsp cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until soft. Deglaze the pan with a splash of wine. Season the mahi, sea bass, and shrimp and saute in the pot until lightly golden brown on each side. Add the remainder of the wine and cook until reduced by 3/4. Add the stock, tomatoes, honey, hot sauce, bay leaf and thyme and bring to a simmer. Add the clams, cover the pot, and continue cooking until the clams have opened, discarding any that have not opened.

Remove the seafood with a slotted spoon to a large bowl. Bring the cooking liquid to a boil and cook until reduced by half. Whisk in the butter and parsley and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the seafood back to the pot, dish into bowls and serve with crusty bread.

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