“This is one of California’s most famous dishes, and one that we can claim is ours, all ours.”
Helen Evans Brown is one of my favorite cookbook authors, and if she says that cioppino is a California dish, I’m inclined to believe her. Whenever I get bored and the kitchen muses refuse to whisper in my ear, I’ll find myself fingering through my vintage cookbooks for a little bit of inspiration. It could be a technique I haven’t tackled before, an ingredient combination previously unknown to me, or even a dish that I might have heard of, but have never tried before. Cioppino was one of these dishes.
I love seafood and I love soups, so why I haven’t tried a cioppino before, looking back on it, is a bit of a mystery. It’s endlessly versatile to your tastes (add more or less garlic or spice; switch in your favorite seafood; make with white wine or sherry instead of red wine; throw in potatoes to thicken it up) and surprisingly simple to make. You just sauté some veggies, toss in the other ingredients, add the fish, and little simmering later, you’ve got delicious scents seductively wafting out of your pot. A hearty stew like this wouldn’t be complete without some bread to soak up the broth, so I paired my cioppino with a warm, buttery garlic bread.
One more word from Mrs. Brown on the subject:
“One story says that San Francisco’s fisherman did not introduce cioppino to California, but that an Italian named Bazzuro, who ran a restaurant off of Fisherman’s Wharf, is responsible. What’s more, it was supposed to have been an old recipe, well known in Italy. This is back in the 1850s. I refuse to believe it!”
1 1/2 pounds halibut or cod, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound small shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound dungeness crab legs, cut into 1 inch pieces
12 littleneck clams
1/2 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon chili flakes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup onion, chopped
1 cup green onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 8-ounce can pureed tomato
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
2 cups red wine
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil, followed by the chili flakes and garlic. Let it cook for about 30 seconds, until golden brown. Add the onion, green onion, and green pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the pureed tomatoes and whole tomatoes, followed by the wine and remaining herbs and spices. Cook together for about five minutes. Add all the seafood except for the clams to the pot, stirring to combine, and cover with a lid. Cook for 10 minutes, until the fish is cooked through, add the clams, cover with a lid and cook for another 10 minutes, until the clams are open. Add the butter, stirring until it melts and garnish with parsley. Serve with lots of hot garlic bread!
INGREDIENTS (SIMPLE GARLIC BREAD)
1 sourdough loaf
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
Slice one inch slices about 3/4 through the loaf. The loaf will be intact, but there will be easy to rip off slices across the entire loaf. The goal is for the slices to be easily ripped off after you’ve finished making the garlic bread. In a small pot over medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil together, add the garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the garlic starts to turn golden brown. Take off the heat and add the salt, pepper, and parsley.
Place the bread on a sheet of aluminum foil over a baking sheet. Pour the garlic mixture all over the bread, careful to get into each slice. Roll the foil up and bake the bread until it fully absorbs the garlic mixture, about 10 minutes. Open up foil and turn up the heat to broil, and continue cooking until the bread is lightly toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. Serve the bread while still warm, and let people rip off slices to enjoy.