Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cioppino (Seafood Stew)

I can't tell you how many times I've thought about trying to make cioppino. Something about seafood soup is almost overwhelmingly appealing to me. As I sat at our kitchen table this Saturday thinking about how bored I was, how cold it was, and how crabby I was about to be, I resolved to pick out a recipe and make it my Saturday afternoon project. What better choice than cioppino, which would require a trip to Central Market (whoo-hoo!) for mussels and other fresh seafood, would require the use of my favorite kitchen equipment (the pretty red Dutch oven) and would warm me up on this frigid day?

I found several recipes on for cioppino. If you know me, you know that I glanced at all of them and made up my own from bits and pieces of each.

Here's what I came up with:

1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
red pepper flakes
1 whole bay leaf
1 1/2 cup zinfandel
1 (28oz) cans stewed tomatoes, crushed or cut into smaller pieces
2 cups vegetable (or fish) stock
1 cup clam juice
1 lb mussels
1 lb mahi-mahi (or other firm fish), cut into 1-in cubes
1/2 lb bay scallops (optional)
1/2 lb squid, sliced into rings (optional)
olive oil
salt & pepper
1 lemon
sourdough to serve with the soup

In a large pot, heat olive oil over med-high heat. Add the onion, fennel, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf, season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes or till the onion is translucent.
Add wine and boil till reduced by about half, about 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, stock, and clam juice, season with salt, and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Season according to your taste as this will be the last time you season.
Add the mussels and squid and cook for about 5 minutes, covered. After 5 minutes, take out the opened mussels and cook the closed ones for another few minutes. Discard any that haven't opened after 10 minutes of cooking.
Add the fish and scallops and cook for 3-5 minutes.
Remove bay leaf.
Serve immediately over the mussels with sourdough bread and add a few drops of fresh lemon juice.

1. One of the reasons I have always been hesitant to make this is that I don't know if all of the cioppino I made would be eaten that day. I discovered the solution to this problem. Once you have made your soup (without the seafood), you can split your batch in half. Add half of your seafood to half of your soup and save the rest for tomorrow or day-after-tomorrow (but not any longer than that).

2. I might suggest adding some tomato paste to the soup when you add your tomatoes. I liked the result from the recipe above, but it might have been a bit better with a heartier tomato taste.

3. I ended up with more seafood than soup; if you are ok with that, keep the recipe as is. Otherwise, you may want to add more liquid and adjust the seasoning to compensate.

4. Notice a lot of the seafood I added to the recipe is optional. I think the key ingredients are mussels and fish. Everything else is a tasty bonus. Feel free to add crab legs, lobster, clams, etc.

All in all, a success for a first attempt.

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