Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Cioppino originated in San Francisco's traditionally Italian North Beach neighborhood.

Local legend suggests that the name of the seafood stew originated from the custom of "chipping in" ingredients into a boiling pot after a day out on the bay fishing to create a communal meal.

Cioppino is a real simple dish that anyone can make. The freshness of the seafood and the layering of the flavors in the broth are two key elements to pay attention to.

In this recipe I use clam juice as a substitute for fish stock. Either works fine in the dish. I just happen to have a lot of clam juice on hand at all times because we are such clam chowder fiends. How you actually finish this stew with the fresh seafood without overcooking it is a trick that is easily mastered which I will share with you below.

52 oz clam juice or fish stock
16 oz diced San Marzano plum tomatoes
1 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 cup red wine
4 finely diced red and yellow sweet peppers
1 bunch diced celery
1 finely diced onion
2 oz chopped garlic
3 bay leaves
2 tbsp Italian spice
1 tbsp basil
Tabasco (to taste)
Salt and Pepper
1 Tbsp Olive oil

16 Steamer Clams
1/2 lb Bay Scallops
1/2 lb Langostinos
2 - 2 lb Dungeness Crabs
8 - U-15 prawns
16 Mussels

(Keep in mind that all the seafood ingredients can vary due to availability)

Finely dice the garlic, onion, celery, and red peppers in a food processor. Heat the olive oil in your pan and cook the vegetables until the onions become translucent. Add bay leaves, basil, italian spice, salt, and pepper to taste. Add the clam juice or fish stock. Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and red wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours which will allow the flavors to meld together

Once you are ready to serve add the mussels and clams to the broth and bring it to a boil. Continue boiling until the shells open. Reduce the temperature to a simmer and add the Langostino's and Prawns (make sure they are thawed). Cook them for approximately three minutes.

Prepare your eight serving bowls by dividing up the raw scallops and putting them into the bottom of the bowls.  Poor the steaming broth from the stew over the scallops and artistically divide the cooked seafood among the eight bowls. Scallops don't need a lot of heat or time so this insures that you and your guests are going to be eating perfectly cooked scallops.

Divide/cut your (cooked and cleaned) Dungeness crab into eight sections and hang it over the edge of the bowls with the legs sticking out and serve. The crab doesn't need much heat because it already cooked. Resist the temptation to dump it directly in the stew while cooking the mussels and clams. If you like it warm simply dip into the sauce as you eat it.

I like serving this with San Francisco sourdough garlic-butter toast points on the side.

Serves Eight

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