When I had some extra clams for an Island Creek Oyster “Half Shell” order, I was looking for another way to use them up and was trying to skip the carbs of the obvious pasta. I had a piece of halibut and a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer, so I decided to try my hand at Cioppino. Cioppino is basically ;a seafood stew that was created in San Francisco where fishermen would share their catch of the day. Our local fish market in Chicago, Dirk’s had sea scallops and homemade fish stock, and everything else was already in my pantry. It made a huge batch of broth, so I decided to conserve half of it before adding the fish so that I could freeze it. In the end, I ended up giving it to our friends the Doctors Dunham, along with the extra raw fish and shellfish that I had so all they had to do was boil the broth and add the fish for a super easy, tasty meal after a long day at work. Their verdict, “Delicious”. I hope you agree.
- 1 large or 2 small Fennel bulbs, white part only, cored and chopped (2 cups)
- 1 large Onion, chopped (1 ½ cups)
- 3 celery stalks, chopped (1 cup)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced (2 TBSP)
- ¼ cup Olive Oil extra virgin
- 2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper flakes
- ½ tsp Fennel Seed
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 ½ cartons (26.46 ounce) Diced or Chopped Tomatoes (or 1 1/2 29 ounce cans)
- 1 6 ounce can Tomato Paste
- 1 ½ cups White Wine such as Pinot Grigio
- 6 cups Seafood Stock
- 2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
- ½ cup Flat Parsley chopped
- 6 Littleneck Clams per person
- 4 Sea Scallops per person
- 3 Large Shrimp peeled & deveined, per person
- ¼ pound Halibut filet or other firm white fish cut into 2” pieces, per person
PREPARE THE BROTH
- In a large dutch oven or wide stock pot (6 quarts or larger), sweat the onions, celery and fennel in the olive oil over medium heat until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the fennel seed, pepper flakes and garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste and stir until the vegetables are well coated and no lumps remain.
- Add the tomatoes, wine, stock, bay leaf, salt and pepper and increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
- As soon as the sauce comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and bring to a simmer. Give a stir then cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, stirring once or twice to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- At this point, if you are not ready to prepare the stew and serve right away, remove from the heat and leave covered until you are ready to proceed. Allow to cool and refrigerate or freeze for future use.
COMPLETE THE STEW
- About ½ hour before you are ready to cook, soak the clams in cold water to allow them to release any sand.
- In a large dutch oven or wide stock pot, bring 1 cup of broth per person to a boil.
- Strain the clams and add to the boiling broth. Cover and cook for about 3-5 minutes until the clams are just starting to open.
- When the clams have just started to open, add the scallops, shrimp and fish. Stir to ensure everything is covered in the broth. Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes until the shrimp is pink and the clams are fully opened.
- Place 6 clams, 4 scallops, 3 shrimp and 4 pieces of fish in pasta or soup bowls and ladle the broth over. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately with crusty bread for dunking in the sauce.
- Use any combination of fish and shellfish that you like, these are simply guidelines. Cioppino was created by fishermen sharing their catch, so it varied depending on what came in on the day. Try any combination that you like. Mussels are typical in most recipes, but they weren’t available when I created this recipe and I didn’t miss them, thus the omission. Add them with the clams if you use them.
- I sometimes use lobster if I have leftover meat after a big clam bake and it is delicious, too. I also make stock with the lobster shells and freeze it. The store bought stock is perfectly fine, but the homemade really is worth it and adds additional depth of flavor.
- If you (or one of your guests) are allergic to something, simply omit it, or cook a portion separately without the offending fish. For example, I have a friend who is allergic to shrimp, so I would simply cook the shrimp separately in a cup of broth and then add shrimp to the bowls of those that are not allergic and thus the main batch is safe for everyone.
- Using the freshest fish and shellfish possible makes a huge difference. • If any of the clams don’t open, discard them, as it means they are dead.
- The broth may be made ahead and refrigerated for several days or frozen for a tasty and easy meal when you don’t have time to do the chopping.
- Rosemary Focaccia is a perfect accompaniment.
- Many fish markets make fish and/or seafood stock and have it available frozen. Kitchen Basics is available at many grocery stores.
- A nice Pinot Noir is a perfect pairing.