Cioppino (San Francisco Fish Stew)

The story is that Cioppino was born on the boats of Italian fisherman off the coast of San Francisco in the 1800s, using the leftovers of the catch that wouldn’t fetch a good price. In the spirit of the dish, feel free to make seafood substitutes, using whatever is available. The more variety, the more likely you’ll have a complex flavor.

1 Cup Single Varietal Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 lb (two sticks) butter, unsalted
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced fine
2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and diced
1 rib celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 Bay Leaves
1 tsp Oregano, Mediterranean
1 tsp Thyme Leaf
1 tsp Basil Leaf
2 pinches Cayenne Powder
4 lb fresh Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 2 (28 oz. cans) crushed Italian tomatoes, liquid reserved
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1-1/2 lb halibut filet, cut into large pieces
16 large scallops
3/4 lb. jumbo shrimp (16/20 count), peeled and de-veined
1/2 lb small shrimp (51/60 count), peeled
1 to 2 Cups all-purpose flour for dredging
12 oz crab meat
2 Cups dry white wine
3 Tbsp. Pinot Noir Red Wine Vinegar
16 little neck clams, scrubbed
1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1/2 Cup of the olive oil and one stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté, stirring often, until they soften and begin to appear translucent. Add carrots, celery and bell pepper and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for another 5 minutes.

Add Roma tomatoes, tomato paste, 4 Cups water, herbs and Cayenne, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring liquid to a rolling boil before reducing heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 2 hours.

Heat remaining 1/2 Cup olive oil and stick of butter, and garlic in a large, heavy skillet over high heat until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Working in two batches, dredge the halibut, scallops, and large and bay shrimp in flour, shaking off excess, and fry, turning each piece of seafood frequently, until all are golden, 1-2 minutes. Transfer seafood with a slotted spoon to the big pot with the simmering tomato-herb sauce. Add crabmeat to the soup, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Drain off butter and oil from skillet. Return to high heat and add white wine and vinegar to the skillet. Use a spatula to deglaze the pan, scraping the tasty browned bits stuck to bottom of skillet.

Add clams to the skillet, cover, and cook until clamshells open, about 5 minutes. (Much like people who are a little too quiet, don’t trust the clams that don’t open up completely).

Add clams and broth to the stew pot; give a quick taste and adjust the salt and pepper. Ladle soup into large bowls and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve with lots of toasted garlic or sourdough bread to sop up the savory broth.