I have lived in Northern California for over a decade and I have never made cioppino until last week. I have no idea why; maybe it seemed intimidating, even to me! After having it at a friend's house over the holidays and seeing how simple it was, I knew it was time for me to tackle it.
The recipe she used was this one from Giada de Laurentiis which was delicious, of course, but one thing she (my friend, not Giada) complained about was the availability (and cost) of the fish stock. Since I often make seafood risotto with chicken stock, I was curious if I could pull it off for cioppino as well.
After making it last weekend for some friends, the results were unanimous; the chicken stock not only made the broth lighter but it was less salty. I decided to use the juice from the canned clams to add some extra flavor. With the exception of the halibut and the crab (it's high season for Dungeness right now), the other fish was frozen (shrimp and scallops) or from a can (chopped clams). I know the recipe usually has fresh clams and mussels but was looking to simplify the recipe as much as possible.
So grab your garlic toast (gluten-free, in my case) and try this recipe!
Quick and Easy Cioppino
What is cioppino? There are many versions but no matter how you slice it, you are cooking fish and seafood in a simmering broth of tomato and wine. If you want straight-forward and easy, this recipe is for you.
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp unsalted butter
1 large or 2 small onions, cut into thin slices
1 bulb of fennel, cut into thin slices (if you don’t like or don’t have fennel, leave this out)
¼ tsp ground pepper
¼ tsp crushed red pepper (add more if you like it spicier)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp sea salt
1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
1/3 c tomato paste (freeze any leftover in a ziploc bag for another time)
4 cups of fish broth OR 1 carton (32 oz) chicken broth (see note)
2 cups dry white wine
Juice from 1 can of chopped clams (reserve clams for later)
1 bay leaf
1 lb halibut, cut into chunks
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined (21-25 size)
1 lb sea scallops (cut in half if large)
Clams from chopped clams can
1 Dungeness cooked crab, cleaned and cracked
Note: you can use a light chicken broth in this recipe if you don’t have fish stock on hand. It comes out very well and is less expensive. You could also use a vegetable broth.
1. Sauté onion and fennel in olive oil and butter with the black and crushed red pepper. Cook until softened and golden. Add garlic and salt and cook for 1 minute.
2. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, wine, clam juice and bay leaf. Bring this to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes or until the onion and fennel are soft and the broth has thickened.
3. About 10 minutes before you are ready to eat, bring the broth back up to a boil. Add the thickest fish first. Then add remaining fish or seafood in stages, waiting about two minutes in between. Try to keep the broth at a simmer. Add anything cooked like the clams or the crab at the very end and just heat through. Remove bay leaf. It is very hard to digest so you want to make sure you don't eat it.
4. Before serving, taste the broth to make sure the balance of salt and pepper is right. If it tastes “flat”, add more salt. If you want it spicier, add more crushed red pepper.