Cioppino is an authentic California recipe, originating with San Francisco fishermen who used whatever they caught to make this wonderful fish stew. Ingredients might include fresh fish of almost any kind, squid, octopus, shellfish and the vegetables and herbs they carried on their boats for meals at sea – all chopped and added to the pot. But, whatever other fish they used, Dungeness Crab, so plentiful in the waters outside San Francisco Bay was – and is – the one constant. There is no Cioppino without crab!
(Quite delightfully, ‘cioppino’ really does mean what is sounds: ‘chopped up’ – which is exactly what you do when you’re preparing it. And for Italian language purists… ‘Cioppino’ is said to be derived from ‘ciuppin,’ Genovese dialect for ‘chopped.’)
Remember, the freshness of the ingredients is much more important than the variety!
Sometimes I’m asked to describe my cuisine or school – style – of cooking. It’s hard to give a precise answer. We’re based in California. We’re on the sea. I learned a lot from John’s Italian mother and there’s a strong Mexican influence here. Without being too fanatical about it, we seek out organic and local ingredients and we avoid processed foods like the plague.
Having said that, perhaps Cioppino is a perfect Poseidon Cooks! recipe. It’s authentically Californian, originally prepared by San Francisco’s Italian fishermen. It demands the freshest raw materials and, of course, it is entirely ‘of the ocean.’
The one essential and constant Cioppino ingredient is Dungeness Crab, which is not caught right here but is almost always available – super-fresh – from our local fish market. If we’re prepared to bend this Dungeness Crab rule, there’s a local ‘Rock Crab’ which looks and tastes exactly like its Dungeness cousin. For the sake of authenticity, we usually buy Dungeness but I doubt anyone could tell the difference…
What You Need:
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup chopped leeks
½ cup chopped fennel
2 garlic cloves, chopped fine
8 roasted Roma tomatoes, chopped or 1 16 oz can San Marzano tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 bay leaf
2 cups crab stock (or other fish stock)
1 teaspoon chile garlic sauce
1 pound clams
½ pound scallops
½ pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup white wine
1 Dungeness crab, meat removed from the shell
What You Do:
Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy pan. Add the leeks, fennel and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are soft. Add the tomatoes, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, crab stock and chile garlic sauce. Reduce by half, season with salt and keep warm.
Heat the remaining olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add the clams and cook until they’re just starting to open. Next, add the shrimp and cook for about a minute. Then add the scallops and cook for another minute. Pour in the wine and simmer until it’s reduced by half.
Stir in the pieces of crab and combine the seafood with the tomato mixture. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with crusty bread.
Remember, you can experiment and bring the changes with the various seafood ingredients but the one absolute essential is the crab!