Photo by Judith Hausman
My family and I all fell in love with cioppino during a recent family trip to Northern California. A recent blustery, rainy night back home on the East Coast reminded me of this rough and hardy, red wine and tomato-based fish stew.
A tribute to the Italian and Portuguese fishermen of Northern California, cioppino resembles many international sailors’ stews. It’s as easy as it’s impressive. The most difficult part is assembling the ingredients, frankly. Cooking it is asnap.
Home-canned or local seasonal tomatoes and homemade fish stock (or a quart from your local fishmonger, at least) are ideal, but at the end of a long week, I used a big can of roasted, diced tomatoes and a box of fish stock. A dash of smoked paprika would add the same depth to a can of your usual diced tomatoes and you might try a bottle of clam juice instead of the box. Taste before seasoning if you choose the already-salty clam juice. If you use a food processor to chop the vegetables all together, the prep is even faster.
We used tilefish but haddock, hake or even monkfish would have been better. Just use a firm, mild fish (no salmon) that won’t flake to nothing before the shellfish cook and open. Clams take a tiny bit longer than the mussels do, so you might put them in first, followed by the mussels. Remember to discard any sketchy shellfish that doesn’t open in cooking. Serve the soup-stew with country bread to sop up the broth, and make sure to provide your guests with a fork, as well as a spoon, to get the bivalves out of their shells.
- 1 fennel bulb, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, preferably with leaves, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence (thyme, oregano, rosemary)
- hot pepper flakes, to taste, or one small hot pepper, minced
- 1 (28 ounces) can roasted, diced tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup full-bodied, fruity red wine (Shiraz, Zinfandel)
- 1 cup fish stock or clam juice
- 1 pound calms
- 1 pound mussels
- 1 pound skinless filets of firm, white fish (see above), cut in 2-inch chunks
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Cook the chopped vegetables covered and over low heat to soften for 8 to 10 minutes. Add herbs, tomatoes, water, wine and stock.
Simmer for another 15 minutes. Season to taste. Add the shellfish and fish chunks.
Cook only until the clams and mussels open wide. Serve with crusty bread.
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As a long-time freelance foodwriter, Judith Hausman has written about every aspect of food, but localproducers and artisanal traditions remain closest to her heart. Eating close tohome takes this seasonal eater through a journey of delights and dilemmas, onetiny deck garden, farmers’ market discovery and easy-as-pie recipe at atime. She writes from a still-bucolic but ever-more-suburban town inthe New York City ‘burbs.