Cioppino, a fisherman's fish and shellfish stew from San Francisco, is easy to make, and absolutely delicious with the right ingredients.
It has Dungeness crab (in season in the winter on the west coast), and usually shrimp, clams and/or mussels, and some firm white fish such as halibut or sea bass.
It's a Feast of the Seven Fishes, all in one bowl!
Use the Best Seafood
The trick is using the highest quality seafood. I wouldn't attempt this stew unless I had access to very fresh fish and shellfish, fortunately abundant in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Whole Foods usually carries good seafood, but you should always check when they got the item in, preferably the same morning you buy it (Ask!).
Asian markets can be a good source of fresh seafood as well. Varieties are often available at a much lower price than that of Whole Foods. If your fishmonger has some good fish or shellfish stock for sale as well, all the better.
How To Serve Cioppino
Note that cioppino is typically served with the shellfish still in their shells, making for somewhat messy eating. But it's a lot of fun for an informal gathering. Have plenty of napkins available and don't wear white!
What Is Cioppino?
Cioppino was a dish created by Italian-Americans who settled in the North Beach section of San Francisco. It was inspired by regional seafood stews from the old country fishermen originally made on the boats while out at sea. The dish later became a staple as Italian restaurants proliferated throughout the city. The name comes from "ciuppin," the name for the local Genoan fish stew in the Ligurian dialect. Similar seafood soups were found throughout the port cities of the Mediterranean.
Other Seafoods for Cioppino Stew
The beauty if cioppino is that you can add any seafood you like, just like the original fishermen did with scraps at the end of the day.
Feel free to add your choice of clams, mussels, shrimp, octopus, calamari, crabs, lobster bits, and any kind of thick, hearty fish.
What to Serve With Cioppino Seafood Stew
- Classic Endive Salad
- Garlic Bread
- No Knead Bread
- French Green Beans With Butter and Herb
- Caesar Salad
Optional seasonings include a dash of Tabasco sauce and/or Worcestershire sauce.
Use prepared fish or shellfish stock, or make your own. If prepared shellfish stock is not available, combine some prepared fish stock (available at many markets, including Trader Joe's) with clam juice.
For the seafood
3 pounds halibut, sea bass, or other firm white fish, cut into inch-long cubes
1 large (2 pounds or more) cooked Dungeness crab (hard shell)
1 pound (or more) large shrimp
2 pounds littleneck clams and/or mussels (mussels should be scrubbed clean and beards removed right before cooking)
For the sauce
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (1 large onion)
1 cup chopped bell pepper (1 large bell pepper)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
Broth from the mollusks
2 cups red wine
2 cups tomato juice
2 cups fish stock or shellfish stock
Herb bouquet of bay leaf, parsley, and basil wrapped in a layer of cheesecloth and secured with kitchen string
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup minced parsley, for garnish
Steam the clams and mussels:
Steam mollusks (clams and mussels) in a small amount of water (about two cups) until they just open. Strain and set aside.
If you make your own shellfish stock, reserve the cooking broth to make stock to use in the future.
Prepare the cooked crab:
Remove the crab legs from the body and use a nutcracker to crack the shells so the meat can be easily removed when eating.
Break the body in half, and then cut each half again into either halves or thirds. You can opt to keep the crab meat in the body segments and serve it that way (more work for the eater) or you can pick out the crab meat from the body segments.
If you pick out the crab meat, try to keep it in big chunks.
If you make your own shellfish stock, keep the top shell of the crab to make stock to use in the future.
Prepare the shrimp:
Split the shrimp shells down the back and remove the black vein. The easiest way to do this without removing the shell, is to lay the shrimp on its side and insert a small knife into the large end of the shrimp, with the blade pointing outward from the back (away from the shrimp and your hands).
Once you have split the shrimp shells, you can turn the knife toward the shrimp, and cut in a little to find the black vein. Pull out the vein as much as you can. You can probably also use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut the backs of the shrimp.
You can shell the shrimps and then devein them. Shell-on imparts more flavor; shell-off is easier to eat. It's up to you!
Make the soup base:
In a deep, 8-quart pot, sauté onions and bell pepper on medium heat in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, and sauté a minute more.
Shred (squish) tomatoes with your hands and add to the pot along with the juice from the can. Add broth from the mollusks, red wine, tomato juice, fish or shellfish stock, the herb bouquet, and salt and pepper to taste.
Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Remove herb bouquet. Taste and adjust seasoning to suit your tastes.
Add fish and shellfish:
Add the fish and cook, covered, until the fish is just cooked through, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the steamed mollusks, crab meat, and shrimp. Heat just until shrimp are cooked (just 2 to 3 minutes, until they are bright pink). Do not overcook.
Serve in large bowls:
Ladle into large bowls, shells included. Sprinkle with minced fresh parsley. Serve with crusty French or Italian bread and a robust red wine like Zinfandel or Montepulciano d’Abruzzo.
Have plenty of napkins available, a few extra bowls for the shells, and nut crackers. If you left the shells on, have some tiny forks, too.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 22g||28%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||17%|
|Total Carbohydrate 21g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 3g||11%|
|Total Sugars 7g|
|Vitamin C 116mg||580%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|