Friday, January 2, 2009

San Francisco Cioppino (Seafood Stew)


I love the story behind this savory fish stew. This Italian-American dish comes from the San Francisco Bay area. It is said that, way back when, the local Italian-immigrant fisherman would all throw a bit of whatever they caught that day into a pot, "chipping in" whatever they had and ending up with a nice stew to share. Thick Italian dialects inevitably end up adding a vowel to the ends of words, so "Chip In!" sounded more like "Chip Een-oh!" Down the line, some clever restauranteur "Italianized" and "elegantized" it to it's current spelling. And that's the tasty tale of Cioppino.

Ingredients:

* 1/4 cup (3 turns around the pan in a slow stream) extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
* 2 to 3 flat fillets of anchovies, drained
* 6 cloves garlic, crushed
* 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
* 2 celery ribs, chopped
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 1 cup good quality dry white wine
* 1 (14-ounce) container chicken stock
* 1 (32-ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
* 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (about 1 tablespoon)
* 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
* 1 1/2 pounds cod, cut into 2-inch chunks
* Salt and pepper
* 8 large shrimp, ask for deveined easy-peel or peel and devein
* 8 sea scallops
* 16 to 20 raw mussels, scrubbed
* A loaf of fresh, crusty bread, for mopping

DIRECTIONS:

In a large pot over moderate heat combine oil, crushed pepper, anchovies, garlic, and bay. Let anchovies melt into oil. The anchovies act as a natural salt, the pepper flakes will infuse the oil, providing heat.

Chop celery and onion near stove and add to the pot as you work. Saute vegetables for a few minutes to begin to soften and add wine to the pot. Reduce wine a minute, then add chicken stock, tomatoes, thyme, and parsley. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to medium low.

Season fish chunks with salt and pepper. Add fish and simmer 5 minutes, giving the pot a shake now and then. Do not stir your soup with a spoon after the addition of fish or you will break it up. Add shrimp, scallops, and mussels and cover pot. Cook 10 minutes, giving the pot a good shake now and again.

Remove the lid and discard any mussels that do not open. Carefully ladle stew into shallow bowls and pass bread at the table. Dip the crusty bread in to soak up the juicy deliciousness. :)

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