You know how we love stews around here. Even in summer. Toss everything into one big pot and cook. That's our kind of recipe. Cioppino is a tomato-based seafood stew that hales from San Francisco (not Italy, as many assume). It's hearty, yet light. Rich, yet fresh. You can make it as complex and fancy as you want, or dumb it down, as we like to do).
We used the epicurious Easy Cioppino, with just a few modifications. If you can get your hands on a fennel bulb, it adds a lot of flavor, so go to extra lengths for this ingredient. The red wine also lends luxurious extravagance to this dish, but if you can't cook with alcohol, substitute fish or mushroom stock.
Typically, cioppino calls for shellfish to remain in the shells, which can be fun, but a mess. In this recipe, we pre-steamed and shelled the mussels. If you don't go this route, add the mussels about five minutes before the rest of the broth is done and cook until mussel shells open wide. Throw out any that don't open.
Effort required: 3/4 assed
Here's what you need and how you do it
1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded and bulb chopped (or substitute 1 chopped green bell pepper)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped (optional)
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, grapeseed oil, or canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme or a large pinch of fresh
1/8 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes or tabasco sauce to taste
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in juice
2 cups water or fish stock
1 cup red wine
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
1 pound skinless fillets of thick white-fleshed fish such as halibut, hake, or pollack, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 pound cultivated mussels (Here's some info on the difference between cultivated and wild mussels). (Can substitute little neck clams or oysters.)
Fresh parsley for garnish
In a large saucepan, heat oil. Add fennel, onion, garlic, and shallot and cook until just tender.
Add red pepper flakes, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, tomatoes (with juice), wine, water, and clam juice and bring to a boil. Let boil uncovered for about 20 minutes. Stir in seafood and simmer, uncovered, just until fish is cooked through. Be careful not to overcook your cioppino.
Serve with sourdough (perfect for sopping up broth).
For a printable version of this recipe, click here.