Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's NOT Rice-A-Roni!

I don't know who those people are, but Rice-A-Roni is NOT the San Francisco treat, it's Cioppino! Cioppino (chip-pee-no) is a seafood laden stew developed by Portuguese and Italian fishermen who settled in San Francisco in the late 1800s. Supposedly, the fishermen would "chip in" portions of their daily catch to create this regional dish. I found this spicy tomato based stew on menus everywhere in California, so I gave it a try.  It was delicious and began to search for the perfect recipe. There are tons of versions, some use fennel, some use Pernod (that anise flavored liquor), some used green bell peppers, some used white wine, and some used red.  How to choose? Well, since this is my first attempt, I decided to use the most basic version I could find. (I'm sure that's how they did it originally.) I did read that, as long as it contains dungeness crab and is served with sourdough bread, you cannot make a bad cioppino! So here goes:

(Mussels would probably look more beautiful!)


Serves 6


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 celery rib, finely diced
1 cup onion, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups white wine (Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc)
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 can (28 oz) tomato puree or tomato sauce
2 cups water, clam juice, fish or seafood stock, plus more as needed to adjust thickness
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
5-6 thin slices of lemon
8 oz fresh halibut, cod, salmon, cut into 1-inch pieces or any other white fish
1 cooked Dungeness crab (about 2 lbs), cracked and cleaned, or 1 lb frozen crabmeat thawed (I couldn't find Dungeness, so I used King crab)
1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb fresh clams or mussels (I used little neck clams)
8 oz fresh sea or bay scallops
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (Italian parsley, basil, and/or tarragon)
1 loaf sourdough bread (to serve)


In a large pot or dutch oven, over medium, medium-low heat, add the olive oil and butter. Add the onion, celery, and a pinch of salt. Saute until translucent, but not brown, about 6-7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Next add the wine and bring to a simmer. Then throw in the bay leaf, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes, and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and add the tomato puree (or whatever you're using) and 1 cup of the stock/water/fish/clam juice. Raise the heat to medium and bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer for about 35 minutes. If it looks too thick, you can thin it out with an additional 1 cup of water or stock, if you wish.

Now taste it to see if it needs any additional salt. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the lemon slices and white fish, bring to a simmer. Next add the crab and shrimp. Stir and add the clams or mussels and scallops. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes or so. (You'll know when it's done when the clam or mussel shells are opened.) Discard any unopened clams or mussels - don't eat them! Add the fresh herbs and taste for salt, pepper, and additional red pepper flakes, to taste. Serve with a crusty sourdough loaf.

Few! I did it! That wasn't hard! How did it turn out? Well, like I read, you can't make a bad cioppino! Delicious! Try it! Use whatever seafood you like!

Recipe adapted from Chef John of

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