Thursday, March 26, 2009

Heavenly Cioppino

This was incredible.... and yes, even better the next day. It originated, and then twisted, from Fish: Without A Doubt by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore. In general, the recipes in the book are great starting-off points; each one can be improved with a little research and some more complex seasonings or techniques from the cuisine that inspired the dish. I really respect the authors, who took the time to construct a cookbook around sustainably-harvested or farmed fish. They include an introduction about ocean sustainability, as well as how to clean and prepare fresh fish. There are lists of acceptable fish substitutes for each recipe, and the flavors are generally modern and use fail-safe techniques for even the most inexperienced home fish cook.


Cioppino, that gorgeous seafood stew, can be as complex as you want it to be. Shrimp, mussels, clams, crab, scallops and lobster all have taken center stage in it at some point. I personally like simple cioppino, just with scallops or a dense fish, so you can really taste the quality of the seafood and let that particular meat shine. So, this recipe is for scallops only. For mussels or clams, use another recipe, preferably with red wine - this one would be too delicate. One of the best things about this dish is that you can make virtually everything the day before, or much earlier in the day - the finishing step takes only ~15 minutes! Oh, so soul-enrichingly good!

Heavenly Cioppino
Serves 6
(Make croutons, cilantro aioli, and cioppino base the day before. The day of, heat base and finish.)

Olive oil
1 rustic baguette, sliced on the diagonal into 1/2" slices
1 large garlic clove

1 tiny shallot, chopped
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1.5 Tbl fresh lime juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 large egg yolk
coarse salt

2/3 cup olive oil
2 large onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, pressed
4 small bell peppers, one each of red, green, yellow, orange - cut into 1/2" dice
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary, thoroughly crushed
1/2 fresh bay leaf (1 dried)
pinch cinnamon
pinch allspice
2 serrano chiles, seeds and membranes removed
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup Sauvignon Blanc, or other dry, crisp white wine
coarse salt
fresh pepper (white if you can stand it, black if you can't)
16 oz. clam juice
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes

1.5 lbs sea scallops, fresh or frozen
2/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil

To make croutons:
  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan.
  2. Put in as many slices of baguette as will fit.
  3. Saute until a reddish-brown, maybe 3 minutes.
  4. Turn, adding oil if needed, and repeat.
  5. Remove bread to a plate to cool.
  6. Finish remaining bread.
To make aioli:
  1. Put shallot, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro in a food processor and make a paste. Add mayo and egg yolk to make a smooth sauce.
  2. Season with salt.
  3. Refrigerate until use.

To make cioppino base:
  1. Have all ingredients measured out and next to the stove.
  2. Heat a large stockpot over high heat.
  3. Add the olive oil and onions.
  4. Saute until onions are translucent, stirring often, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add garlic, saute for another 1 minute.
  6. Add bell pepper, dried herbs & spices, saute for another 2 minutes.
  7. Add serranos and tomato paste, and mix until combined.
  8. Saute for another 2 minutes, or until bell peppers are almost tender. DO NOT BURN PASTE.
  9. Pour in wine, bring to a boil, and cook for about 5 minutes, until syrupy.
  10. Add pepper, clam juice, tomatoes, and bring to a boil again.
  11. Turn down the heat, and let simmer for 30 minutes to reduce.
  12. If saving for the next day, let cool and refrigerate. The next day, bring to a simmer and continue.
To finish cioppino:
  1. Add the scallops. If frozen, let cook on a slow simmer for about 10-15 minutes, adding fresh herbs in last 3 minutes of cooking. If fresh, add scallops and fresh herbs and cook together for only 3-4 minutes (they will continue to cook after you take them off the stove).
To serve:
  1. Rub a clove of garlic over both sides of a crouton & put the slice in the bottom of a bowl.
  2. Add a couple ladlefuls of cioppino.
  3. Drizzle with aioli, maybe some more fresh basil.
If there is anything closer to heaven, I don't know what it is.

**Note: if you are lucky enough to have leftovers, DO NOT microwave the scallops in the broth - you will be sorry. Instead, ladle out soup into a bowl, pick out the scallops, and heat soup until very hot, about 2 minutes on HI. Meanwhile, rub a crouton with fresh garlic and chop some fresh basil. Take out the soup and add the scallops back in, mixing well. Slide a crouton into the bowl under the soup, drizzle cilantro aioli on top, and top with fresh basil. Like fresh, but better!

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