Chio what? Pronounced as “chioppino”, this is a word that I was first introduced to back in late middle school, and early high school. I do not recall eating the cioppino, but I do remember the expressions on my parents faces when they were about to prepare this extremely delicious dish.
After getting back from vacation, an extremely busy week back at work, and time away from my kitchen, I actually missed having dinner with everyone, and I really needed to relief a bit of stress. This is where I was reminded about the excitement of the word ‘cioppino’. A hearty, and extremely amazing dish of mixed seafood, and probably one of the best broths you could probably ever have. I kid you not, this is a home run when it comes to soup, plus it is interactive where you can get a bit messy with your hands if you so desire, and that is my type of food.
After I confirmed the dinner party, I asked my daughter if she wanted to go to the local fishmonger, in my case, Empire Fish. I wanted great quality seafood, and Empire Fish is my only option. My daughter and I were both excited. After our adventure, we were ready for the rest of the day, and definitely prepared for the party.
I took about 5 hours to cook the broth, but that is not to say you have to take it that long. I am a believer, much like making a great Italian red sauce, that the longer, the better.
This serves about 10 adults, keeping in mind that the cooked shellfish can be removed and sauce reserved and frozen for later usage.
- 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded, ribs removed, diced
- 2 medium sized onions, diced
- 2 carrots, diced
- 3 ribs of celery, diced
- 1 head of garlic (yes, one head), minced
- 1 head of garlic, top trimmed
- 1 green bell pepper, seeded and ribbed, diced
- 3 tbsp of unsalted butter
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp hot sauce (I like Tabasco on this one)
- generous pinch of red chili flakes
- large handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 5 15 oz cans of organic tomato sauce
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 cups of good dry white wine
- 8 oz clam stock
- 64 oz seafood stock
- 1 lb of octopus, cleaned, and cut into bit sized chunks
- 1/4 lb of baby scallops
- 3/4 lb of cod fillets, cut into small chunks
- 1 1/4 lb of halibut fillets, cut into small chunks
- 3/4 lb of halibut cheeks
- 1 1/2 lb of 31-35 shrimp, peeled and cleaned
- 6 blue crabs, cleaned (lungs, head, stomach removed), halved
- 24 mussels, lightly scrubbed (live)
- 24 clams (live)
- Good sourdough baguette, cut into 6 inch length, cut in half (1-2 per person)
- unsalted butter
- garlic powder
- fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Good bottle of red or white wine for drinking
So picture all of that. It is true love. Trust me when I tell you this. It really is true love, everything about this dish. It is romantic, it is comforting, and it is well worth every bit of money that goes into it, and the flavors are out of this world!
After preparing all of your vegetables (yes it takes a bit of time to break it all down into a small dice), most of the work is over for you. So get your largest soup pot out, and warm the butter and olive oil on medium heat. Once heated, add in the diced vegetables including the onion, celery, bell pepper, minced garlic, and jalapenos. Sweat this in the pot for about 7 minutes, stirring often.
Next, add in your Tabasco sauce, chili flakes, salt, pepper, and tomato sauce, paste, basil, oregano, bay leaves, and white wine. Mix well, and bring to a boil. Add in your stocks, mix well, return to a boil again, then cover, and simmer until you are ready to begin cooking the seafood. As previously stated, I cooked mine for about five hours to let all of the flavors merry, and I believe it is well worth it.
About a hour before you are ready to serve, place the other head of whole garlic in the pot, and put in the bite sized octopus and cook for about one hour and thirty minutes. Prior to throwing in the clams and mussels, make sure they are all closed. Often times the mussels, in particular, will open up. Tap the shell on the counter, and you will see it begin to close. If it does not close, toss it in the garbage. Also note, that if they do not open up when you cook them, toss them in the garbage.
The clams will cook for about 8-10 minutes. After they are done cooking, remove with a slotted spoon, and set aside. The fish, shrimp, scallops, blue crabs, and cheeks will take about 6 minutes to cook. Return the mussels and clams back to the pot, give a good stir, and turn off the heat.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Melt about 5 tablespoons butter, along with garlic powder, and chopped parsley, either on the stove, or in a microwave. Generously brush each sliced baguette with the butter mixture, and place on a baking sheet in the oven for about 6 minutes, or until a light golden brown.
Now, yes, now you are ready to serve. Ladle in plenty of broth, and place shrimp, fish, a couple of clams and mussels, as well as a blue crab into each bowl, making sure you get plenty other goodies such as the scallops and octopus in each bowl. Place one of the garlic butter baguettes into each bowl, and eat with the baguette, spoon, and your hands.
I left the king crab legs out of this one, but highly recommend breaking them down, and cooking along with the shrimp, however my father-in-law brought over some huge crab legs that I cooked separately with corn and potatoes.
I shouldn’t have to tell you any more. The smells you have been waiting for are here. Every spoonful is packed with flavor. Amazing flavor at that. The conversation was quiet at the table for the first ten minutes. That is always a good sign. I think I heard words such as “wow”, “oh my”, “oh holy wow”, or some blend of that during those ten minutes.
So if you are looking for a really amazing dish, and one that is going to impress, this is the one. Cioppino is something wonderful, and there is no doubt about it.