Tonight: I cook my take on Northern California Cioppino, a fish/shellfish stew.
I have procured:
- palourde clams
- some mussels
- some king prawns
- haddock
OK. So, tonight I am attempting for the first time the Central/N. California seafood dish "cioppino". Some will try to tell you it's an Italian dish. It's firmly Californian with Italian roots.
The exact origin, and even the name of this dish, appears to be a bit apocryphal. It allegedly originates among Italian fishermen / fish sellers of San Francisco a century or so (or more) ago.
Cioppino falls within a broad family of fish/shellfish soups and stews from around the Mediterranean. You can probably find a tomato/fish/shellfish stew/soup pretty much everywhere around the Med.
There are Italian and Croatian dishes like "Brudet" or "Brodetto" or, in Corfu, Μπουρδέτο that are broadly along the same lines as Cioppino.
The word "cioppino" is nonsensical to many Italians. There's two competing theories as to the etymology of the word.
Theory 1 claims that there is a Ligurian word "cioppin" for such a dish. No doubt people smarter than me will argue whether Ligurian is actually a separate language or just a regional dialect of Italian. I will not get into that argument
As the internet is a bit sparse in Ligurian, I can find only a few references to this "cioppin" - most of which refer back to San Francisco and are, as an intelligence analyst would say, "circular reporting"
The other theory is that San Francisco fishermen would eat communal meals and "chip in" something from their catch to the communal pot.
No doubt some chud is going to rant about socialism now.
Regardless of all that, I will start with the following ingredients. I don't actually know how much this will make. Am just feeding me and Mrs K. If I have extra, then the extra soup/stew is pasta topping for tomorrow.
1 red onion, chopped
1 medium fennel bulb, finely sliced
1 shallot, chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
5 fat cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
3 nice tomatoes, chopped.
1 can of good Italian tomatoes.
A sock full of palourde clams
8 mussels
8 king prawns
Half a large haddock fillet.
First step... take off the prawn heads make them into a bit of stock. People following me need to know that I am all about the stock, the jus, the juice....
Unlike some, I am not squeamish about prawn shells and heads. However, their best use is to make a stock
Peel and remove the heads from the prawns
My fennel bulb is more than I need so I took the thick outer layer of it off. Added it to the pan with the prawn heads, a bay leaf, and 1 clove of garlic 🧄
Simmer on low heat. Just let it simmer until you need it for the cioppino. Wash the prawns 🍤 and put them back in the refrigerator
Chop the onion and shallot. Finely slice the fennel
Chop the celery
In your large pot with a cover, put 2+ tablespoons of olive oil in on med hi heat, add the celery, onion, fennel, shallot. Cook for 5+ min until it’s starting to be translucent
Don’t cover yet. You want liquids to evaporate from the onion and fennel
Add 5 cloves chopped garlic. Get a handful of parsley. Chop the stems and add. Leave the leafy bit for later
After about 5 mins, Chop some good tomatoes
Add tomatoes to pan
Add a good squeeze of tomato paste, one cannot chopped tomatoes and some good pinches of hot pepper flakes
Drain your prawn head stock.
Add stock to pot. Add a glass of white wine
Bring up to nearly a boil then turn down to a moderate simmer.
Let simmer for about half an hour’s time
In a bowl of cold water, wash your clams and mussels. Discard any ones that are bad (cracked shells, open, smellling of death, etc)
Remove skin (or not) from the haddock and cube in large chunks
Add clams and mussels to pot. Make sure you are at a high simmer. Cover
After 5 mins add fish. Stir and cover
After 1 min add prawns
Add chopped parsley
After about 3-4 mins check your prawns. The dish is done when the prawns are done.
Discard any clams or mussels that fail to open
Serve with sourdough bread. Enjoy!

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