Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cioppino! Classic Seafood from Fisherman's Wharf : The Other San Francisco Treat!

San Francisco, the city by the bay, one of the most interesting and romantic cities in the US., and a source of history and culture. It is a storied place and the birthplace of many things cultural, social, and culinary which have spread across the nation and in some cases the world. Among it's landmarks is Fisherman's Wharf, which in the past was home to the fleet which brought in the catch to the west coast's seafood markets and supplied people all over. It is here in this storied place that the seafood preparation Cioppino was created ( or at least credited) and it is this type of seafood preparation which has become a hallmark of San Francisco's culinary heritage. A merging of Italian and Portugese traditions it provides the US with yet another traditional seafood preparation.

There are many classic seafood preparations which are basically some sort of seafood stew and have a national or regional flair to them. Bouillibaisse in France, Portugese Seafood Stew in Rhode Island, Jumbalaya in new Orleans and Frogmore Stew in the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia, are all examples of this type of stew!

For Christmas entertaining this year I decided to make Cioppino, this classic seafood stew from San Francisco. It's a tomato based stew in which seafood is cooked and prepared right before serving. All in all an easy dish to make and easy to serve up with a salad and some great garlic bread. 

Cioppino for those of you who do not know is a relic of the fishing industry in the bay area. Credited to the fishermen who at the end of a long day made up a stew of whatever was avaiable and fresh in a rich tomato based broth and served it up with sour dough bread for dipping. Today's version generally has a variety of seafood including and not limited to clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and fish all cooked in a rich sauce that starts with vegetables and tomatoes and is enhanced by the additions of wine and stock and spices. Garlic being the chief culprite here. no good Cioppino is worth it's sauce without a stiff taste of garlic. 

My Cioppino started with a recipe my family had in it's cookbooks from the 1970's. One which my folks probably got in California and used whenever they made this dish. It's notated in several shades of ink and various hand writings. So I would assume this family recipe went through a variety of changes and tweaks over the years. It also has a few finger smudges and food stains from previous cooking long ago. A reminder that recipes like the stories that go with them keep us as people and families connected to each other and to our pasts.

So if you make this they will enjoy! It's actually very easy although a special occasion dish as the seafood is not exactly cheap. But nonetheless try it for your next small gathering and I am sure you hear your guests singing Che Sera Sera! Happy holidays ya'll!!

Forrest's Easy Cioppino the Other San Francisco Treat!
makes 4 portions and enough broth for 8 so you could double the seafood if you wanted or use the extra broth to dip alot of garlic bread!


1 28 can chopped tomatoes
1 4 oz can tomato paste
1 4 oz can tomato sauce
2 cups V8 vegetable juice
1 cup red wine
1 cup white vermouth
4 tablespoon olive oil
2 leeks white and light green parts chopped
2 heads of fennel and some of the leaves chopped
2 stalks of celery chopped finely
1 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic from the jar
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoons each dried oregano, basil, tarragon
8 large shrimp in shells
8 to 12 clams
12 oz of Cod cut into 4 portions
4 to 8 diver scallops
1/2 pound bay scallops

In a large heavy bottomed stock pot
heat oil till glistening
Add vegetables and cook vegetables till soft
Add spices cook till flavors bloom
Add liquids and tomatoes and bring to a boil
Boil for 10 mins
Reduce heat and simmer on low heat for 1 1/2 hours

To serve:

Right before you are ready to eat
Heat broth to boil then reduce to high simmer
Turn timer on for 10 mins
add fish and clams
at 5 mins at scallops and shrimp
When timer sounds check to see if clams are open and turn off the heat
Let sit 2 more mins then serve right away! ( this is critical or seafood will overcook! )
Divide seafood evenly and spoon broth to fill bowls
Serve with a caesar salad and my best ever garlic bread here on the blog! Enjoy Ya'll

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