Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The best of the best...

In my research on origin of Cioppino, I found that this wonderful fish stew began in San Francisco in the late 1800s. This city with a heavy Italian influence had many Italian fishermen. They would return from fishing and throw part of their catch into a community pot, and that was the beginning of Cioppino. Soon the Italian restaurants of North Beach were featuring Cioppino on their menus. Wikipedia says the word "Cioppino" comes from Italian for "chopped," "chopped fine," which describes the "process of making the stew by chopping up various leftovers of the day's catch."

Most of us have had variations of Cioppino and we have favorite restaurants where we claim they make the best "Cioppino." Some have mastered this fish stew at home, and their Cioppinon rivals the best. It's hard to get bad Cioppino so everyone can make the case for their favorite place to find it.

I like Phil's Fish Market in Moss Landing on the Central Coast. The Cioppino at Phil's was featured on the Food Network earlier this year when celebrity chef Bobby Flay came out to tape a segment of "Throwdown With Bobby Flay." Phil's Cioppino won the Throwdown. Click here for a video of the Throwdown.

There are many recipes for Cioppino, but I like this one from epicurious.com:


4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 Turkish bay leaf or 1/2 California bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 (28- to 32-ounces) can whole plum tomatoes, drained, reserving juice, and chopped
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 cup chicken broth
1 (1-pound) king crab leg, thawed if frozen
18 small (2-inch) hard-shelled clams (1 1/2 pound) such as littlenecks, scrubbed
1 pound skinless red snapper or halibut fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound large shrimp (16 to 20), shelled (tails and bottom segment of shells left intact) and deveined
3/4 pound sea scallops, tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Garnish: shredded fresh basil leaves and small whole leaves
Accompaniment: focaccia or sourdough bread
Cook garlic, onions, bay leaf, oregano, and red pepper flakes with salt and pepper in oil in an 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until reduced by about half, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, clam juice, and broth and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While stew is simmering, hack crab leg through shell into 2- to 3-inch pieces with a large heavy knife. Add crab pieces and clams to stew and simmer, covered, until clams just open, 5 to 10 minutes, checking every minute after 5 minutes and transferring opened clams to a bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon. (Discard any unopened clams after 10 minutes.) Lightly season fish fillets, shrimp, and scallops with salt and add to stew, then simmer, covered, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf, then return clams to pot and gently stir in parsley and basil.

Serve Cioppino immediately in large soup bowls.


  1. That looks like a great bowl of cioppino. I'm thinking a nice chunk of garlic bread and a generous glass of chardonnay and you've got a meal to savor. From your entrees to your desserts, I'm saving every recipe that you post. I have binder with them in it now, and I'm going to pass them on to my grandchildren. The binder will be in the will. These recipes are that good.

  2. Sillysally...I'm honored and tickled about the will comment. Thanks for your vote of confidence.

  3. I love cioppino, and I'm not much of a cook. But I sure can patronize restaurants that have good cioppino. I'll have to check out Phil's the next time I'm over at the coast. By the way, have you ever gone into the antique shops in Moss Landing? There are hundreds of them, and you can get just about anything if you look hard enough.

  4. There are some wonderful antique shops in Moss Landing. I have been in many, but certainly not all... there are too many.