I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Italy. Everyone I know that goes just loves every bit of it from the scenery, the people and the food. Always hear how amazing the food is.
Some friends of mine were on their honeymoon in Italy recently and all their pictures (including the obligatory hold up the leaning tower of Pisa pics) made me want to travel there even more now than ever before. I have always been a fan of Italian food, but not so much the pasta dishes, but their seafood dishes. Everyone thinks pasta when they think of Italy; when Italy is really known for many seafood and fish recipes with all of its great coastlines and daily fresh caught seafood everywhere just as much as they are known for pasta.
Cioppino (Pronounced Chu-pea-no) is said to be "developed in the late 1800s by Italian fishermen who immigrated to San Francisco, many from Genoa, Italy. It was made on the boats while out at sea and later became a staple as Italian restaurants proliferated in San Francisco. The name comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa, meaning "to chop" or "chopped" which described the process of making the stew by chopping up various leftovers of the day's catch.
Ciuppin is also a classic soup of Genoa, similar in flavor to cioppino, with less tomato, and the seafood cooked to the point that it falls apart". (Wikipedia). Cioppino has always been a family favorite dish, my mom and I both being huge fans of it. We would always order it from Enterprise Fish Co., a favorite restaurant in Santa Barbara, CA., where I grew up, and I have been making it yearly for Christmas eve dinner.
In Italian cuisine there is a Feast of the Seven Fishes at Christmastime, usually 7 different seafood dishes, sometimes up to a dozen, and quite often celebrated on Christmas eve. Since I have been married we have done non-traditional traditions for holidays, where we make something different each year. One year I decided to do the Feast of Seven Fishes but all in one pot with my Cioppino. I had my usual seafood with clams, mussels, cod, prawns and crab, and I also added in scallops and calamari. Really anything goes in cioppino. This pretty much became our Christmas eve tradition, and the seafood depended on what was available where we lived.
When I told my mom I was making this she was very envious and when I texted her a pic ( my mom texts, crazy right?) she said I was just torturing her and she said she was now craving cioppino and cake and had a huge problem because she was in the wrong state.
Too bad we don't have Jetson phones and can take a pic of a food item, hit send and it appears on the recipients plate. Soon enough I am sure.
How do you make Cioppino?
Start with soffrito. Carrots, Celery Onion. Always.
Cioppino is made with either white wine or red. Some say just white; however I have always been a fan of using both in my recipe. I texted a good friend of mine who is a master Sommlier with suggestions for the best Italian wine to use.
She sent back a ton of amazing info on what wines came from what region of Italy, which were the best pairing with seafood and I found out that Sangiovese is the grape that makes Chianti. I like the idea of having her suggest wine pairings with some of my recipes I make so expect to see more of that on my blog. I need to help convince her to start a wine blog!!
Cioppino always has a mix of shellfish and fish in them. You typically find:
Fish - a firm white fish such as cod
Shellfish - clams, mussels, scallops
Crustaceans - get fancy with crab or lobster, include a claw or two for presentation
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (Italian Olive Oil from World Market
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ fennel bulb, diced
- 2 medium leeks, white and light green part only, rinsed and diced
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried Basil*
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried Oregano*
- 1 teaspoon smoked Paprika*
- ½-1 teaspoon red chile flakes*
- 1 tablespoon high quality balsamic vinegar (Fini from World Market
- 1 ½ c dry Italian White wine ( World Market Pino Blanco, Vermentino or Pino Gris)
- 1 ½ c Italian Red wine (World Market Sangiovese or Chianti
- 3 ounces tomato paste (Mutti Tomato Paste from World Market
- 2 ½ C clam juice ( or seafood stock)
- 1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (Solania from World Market
- 2 Bay leaves*
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
- 1 lb Manilla Clams, scrubbed well
- 1 lb Mussels, debearded and scrubbed well
- 1lb Prawns, tails on and deveined
- 1 lb Cod or other firm white fish, cut into chunks
- 4-6 rock crab claws (Pre-cooked, optional)
- Other seafood options: Scallops, Calamari, Dungeness crab, snow crab, little neck clams or cockles
- ½ c Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Hot sauce such as Tobasco or a habanero hot sauce
The broth can be made ahead of time and either refrigerated or frozen until ready to finish the dish. Just thaw and heat to a simmer before adding the seafood.
Smoked paprika, extra red pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar are my "secret ingredients" to making this cioppino extra good.
If you are intimidated by the thought of prepping the seafood you can always ask anyone at your local seafood store or seafood counter at your grocery store to prep it for you, they are always happy to help.
*Spices from World Market found HERE