CIOPPINO (San Francisco-style seafood stew, for six)

 Soups, chowders, cioppino 2  Soups, chowders, cioppino 3

According to locals, the name evolved from San Francisco’s Italian and Portuguese fishermen who “chipped in” delicacies saved from their daily catch to make a communal evening stew.  This may be urban legend, however, since many fishermen in the Bay area immigrated from Genoa, where the local fisherman’s soup is called il ciuppin, or little soup.

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, stalks and core removed and discarded, bulb finely chopped

1 Turkish bay leaf or ½ California bay leaf

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

1-1/2 teaspoons salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup olive oil

1 green bell pepper, cut into ¼ inch dice

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1-1/2 cups full-bodied, dry red wine (California Syrah or Zinfandel preferred)

one 28- to 32-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, drained, reserving juice, and chopped

1 cup bottled clam juice

1 cup chicken broth

one 1-pound king crab leg, thawed if frozen

10 small (2 inch) hard-shelled clams such as little necks, scrubbed

10 mussels, scrubbed

1 pound skinless red snapper or halibut fillets, cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces

1 pound large shrimp (16 to 20), shelled (tails and bottom segment left intact) and deveined

¾ pound sea scallops, tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary

¼ cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

shredded fresh basil to garnish

Garlic toasts to accompany (recipe follows)

  1. Cook garlic, onions, fennel, bay leaf, oregano and red pepper flakes with salt and pepper in oil in an 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute.  Add wine and boil until reduced by about half, 5 to 6 minutes.  Add tomatoes with their juice, clam juice and broth and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  (The stew, without the seafood, can be made 1 day ahead.  Cool, uncovered, then chill, covered.  Bring to a simmer before adding seafood.)
  1. While stew is simmering, hack crab leg through shell into 2 to 3 inch pieces with a large heavy knife. Add crab pieces and clams to stew and simmer, covered, until clams just open, 5 to 10 minutes, checking every minute after 5 minutes and transferring opened clams to a bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon.  (Discard any clams that have not opened after 10 minutes.)
  1. Lightly season fish, shrimp and scallops with salt and add to stew, then simmer, covered, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf, then return clams to pot and gently stir in parsley and basil.
  1. Serve cioppino immediately in large soup bowls.


adapted from Gourmet Magazine, March, 2002

For the garlic toasts:

one 12-inch Italian loaf, cut into ½ inch thick slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, halved crosswise

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Make the toast while the stock simmers. Preheat oven to 450*. Arrange bread slices in 1 layer on a baking sheet, then drizzle with oil and season with salt. Bake, turning over once, until golden, about 10 minutes total. Transfer toasts to a rack to cook slightly, then rub lightly with cut sides of garlic and sprinkle with parsley.

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