Cioppino or fisherman's stew
There are many version of this Mediterranean stew, including bouillabaisse from South of France, Tuscan cacciucco, Ligurian burrida, zarsuela de mariscos from Spain, caldeirada de peixe from Portugal, and many more. What they all have in common is a delicious tomato broth and an assortment of really fresh seafood. Cioppino is often assumed to be Italian, but was actually invented in San Francisco by an Italian chef to take advantage of the local dungeness crab. So if you are a purist, cioppino is always made with dungeness crab. This recipe is not meant to be for purists. I use what is good and fresh, and sometimes cheap. I also borrow a bit from the spanish soups and add saffron and smoked Spanish paprika because I love the flavor they add.
The beauty of fishermen's stew is you can vary it to your taste and what you have on hand. Some recipes include fennel, potatoes and bell peppers. Any fresh seafood can be used and you can vary the herbs to suit your taste. Red or white wine can be used. Other recipes include Pernod, an anise flavored liquor, which works well with recipes that use fennel. Some recipes include a bit of stale bread or a flour roux to thicken the soup, some use butter and others use olive oil.
How to clean and store clams and mussels
If handling live shellfish makes you a little nervous, see my post How to store live clams, mussels and oysters. There are a couple tricks that will help you keep your shellfish alive and fresh.
Dairy and gluten-free
This recipe is both dairy and gluten-free.
I use Pomi carton-packaged tomatoes because they are BPA-free, and are just pure ripe Italian tomatoes, no additives, no sugar, no salt, no coloring, no preservatives.
A really nice thing about fisherman's stew is the broth can be made in advance, and in fact may be better if the broth has a day for the flavors to meld. When you are ready to serve just bring the broth back to a boil, add your seafood and reduce the heat.
I originally photographed this recipe a couple years ago and I will admit it, the photos were exceptionally ugly. It is a great recipe, but great recipes don't really matter on the internet if you don't also have great photography. I recently reshot this recipe and hope the new pictures will entice you into trying it.
Yield 6 servings
Cioppino, or fisherman's stew, is a great dish for entertaining and surprisingly simple to make. Better yet, it is very flexible, buy whatever seafood is fresh and inexpensive and you can't go wrong.
- 1 pinch saffron (optional)
- 1 cup white wine, divided
- 2 T olive oil
- 4-5 cloves garlic
- 1 large onion (about 3/4 pound)
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 2 celery ribs
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
- 26 ounces canned or boxed chopped tomatoes (preferably Pomi)
- 13 ounces canned or boxed strained tomatos (preferably Pomi)
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup clam juice
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 t sweet Spanish smoked paprika (Pimenton de la Vera)
- 1 t dried oregano
- 1 t crushed red pepper flakes (adjust heat with more or less)
- A large handful of parsley, finely chopped, divided
- 12 clams
- 12 mussels
- 12 crab claws such as Jonah crab or 1 1/2 pounds dungeness crab legs, cut in 3" pieces
- 1 pound white fish such as halibut or snapper
- 12 large shrimp, shell on
- 2 lemons, cut in 6 slices each
- Put saffron and a splash of wine in a small bowl and let sit for 30 minutes.
- In a food processor, finely chop garlic. Add onions, carrot, and celery and pulse until coarsely chopped. Heat olive oil in a large pot, such as a dutch oven. When oil is hot, saute garlic, onions, carrots, celery mixture along with the fennel slices until soft, about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add wine saffron mixture and remaining wine, chopped tomatoes, strained tomatoes, water, clam juice, chicken stock and herbs, including half of the chopped parsley. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cook covered for about an hour, stirring occasionally. (This broth can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.)
- Bring broth back to a boil and add the clams and the mussels and reduce to medium heat. Cook 3-5 minutes until they are mostly open. Add the shrimp, crab and fish and cook another 3-5 minutes until done. Do not overcook. Discard any clams or mussels that did not open.
- Ladle shellfish into individual bowls and top with broth. Garnish each bowl with remaining chopped parsley and a wedge or two of lemon.
THIS SERVES WELL WITH