Part aromatic stew, part finger food, cioppino (pronounced chuh-PEE-no) is a mouthwatering mélange of fresh seafood that
originated on the docks of romantic San Francisco, and is adored ‘round the globe as bouillabaisse in France, brodetto in Italy and suquet de peix in coastal Spain.
Cioppino recalls the raucous days of the California gold rush, and we imagine swarthy Italian and Portuguese immigrants pulling their catch from the icy waters of the Pacific to “chip in” a bit of this, a bit of that, comprising this communal brew of all things yum.
With the flavor-intensive cioppino, you can stick with Sauvignon Blanc, or be fickle and jump to a fruity Beaujolais. If you prefer your cioppino on the spicy side, try a big, bold Syrah.
Loves and Fishes Cioppino
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 small yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
Coarse salt, cracked black pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups crushed tomatoes
1 cup bottled clam juice
1 tablespoon dried oregano, rubbed between your palms
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, rubbed between your palms
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or more to taste
2 bay leaves
8 extra-large shrimp, shells intact, preferably wild
1 1/2 pounds sustainable Chilean sea bass filet, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 pound fresh mussels, soaked, rinsed and scrubbed
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
Lemon wedges, for serving
Sourdough bread, for serving
In a medium soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and bell pepper, seasoning with salt and pepper. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often, being careful not to brown the garlic.
Raise heat to high and add the wine, reducing for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, clam juice, oregano, basil, fennel seeds, crushed red pepper and bay leaves, seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer the sauce for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Taste the sauce and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat to medium-high. Add the fish, mussels and shrimp in their shells (the shells flavor a quick-cooking sauce). Cover and simmer for about 10-12 minutes, or until seafood is fully cooked. Discard any mussels that have not opened.
Stir in the fresh parsley, garnish with lemon wedge, if desired. Serve with hot, crusty sourdough bread.