Cioppino is a fish stew originating from Portuguese and Italian fishermen who settled in the North Beach section of San Francisco in the late 1800’s. It’s a collective pot of leftover catch of the day from the local fisherman. The story is that wharf cooks would call for the fishermen to “chip in” some of their catch to the collective soup pot. Typically a combination of dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish were thrown into the tomato and wine broth.
Use whatever fish and seafood combination you like. Shrimp, scallops, halibut and mussels are my favorites and what I chose.
A few tips.
- Infusing the stock with the shrimp shells imparts a lot of flavor – so do the extra work and peel & devein your own shrimp just for the shells.
- Pernod (anise flavored liquor) is a classic flavor in Cioppino. If you don’t have any (or don’t want to spend the money on a bottle) – chop a bulb of fennel and add to the onions when cooking.
- Fish Stock – so maybe you can’t find fish stock in your store. If not, use equal parts of bottled clam juice & water.
- 32 ounces (2 quarts) fish stock, Kitchen Basics is my favorite
- Pinch saffron
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, or as needed
- 5 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand (or pureed in food processor)
- 2 cups white wine (Pinot Grigio)
- 1/4 cup pernod
- ¼ cup pesto
- ½ cup parsley, chopped
- 1 pounds mussels
- 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve shells)
- 3/4 pound sea scallops, foot removed
- 2 pounds halibut fillet, skinned, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
- ½ cup basil, chopped
- 1 loaf crusty bread
Heat fish stock in a small saucepan. Add reserved shrimp shells to fish stock and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain stock of shrimp shells into large bowl. Add saffron to warm stock and set aside.
Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in an 8-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic, allowing it to brown for about 20 seconds, then add onions and a pinch of salt. Cook until onions are softened, about 4 minutes. Add bay leaf and oregano. Stir and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until paste darkens a bit, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add tomatoes white wine, pernod and the saffron flavored fish stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until liquid has reduced by half. Cover pan and simmer for 30 minutes.
Stir in the pesto and parsley. Add mussels and simmer until mussels open, about 3 minutes (discard any unopened clams). Add shrimp and scallops and cook for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, season halibut salt and pepper. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons oil. Cook the halibut until seared and the fish is cooked through – about 2-3 minutes per side.
Remove bay leaf from pot. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowl and top with chopped basil. Serve with crusty bread.