Friday, April 27, 2012

Cioppino: A San Fransisco Treat

Fig.1. Seafood soup from San Fransisco

I don’t often take requests, but my biggest American fan long ago asked me for a recipe for cioppino and it’s time I oblige.  
Cioppino is a seafood soup from San Francisco, the Italian association comes mainly from two Italian dishes: Cacciocco and Burrida. Cacciucco is a Tuscan fish stew that originated in Livorno.  Ingredients varied as it was based on the catch of the day, usually, the smaller and less meaty fish and mollusks went into the stew, the larger specimens fetched the most money and therefore were sold.  Burrida, also from Liguria, incorporates vegetables in the stew and is usually cooked for much longer, there are many recipes all depending on which coastal town you’re in.
Many food historians assert that old world dishes such as cacciocco or burrida directly influenced New World dishes like Cioppino. Italian and Portuguese immigrants who fished the waters of San Francisco combined tradition and environment and created something truly American owing to the American seafood.  You can find similar dishes in coastal towns and cities all over the world that have, or have not been influenced by one another. (there's a point or conclusion to the notion of 'food connections' I'm trying to figure out, haven't figured it out yet. Keep you posted.)

Serves 4

This is a very simple soup to prepare.  You can use whatever seafood or fish you like, and you can add as much seafood as you like, as long as you add enough stock and tomato puree to just cover the seafood.  And always add the shrimp last, they only need a couple of minutes to cook, as soon as the shrimp turn pink, they’re done.  Make sure you include at least two crustaceans with shells on: crab, lobster, mussels or clams are perfect, the shells and the sea water in them add tremendous flavor.


4 garlic cloves, whole
1 large onion, finely diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup white wine
15 to 18 mussels, cleaned and beards removed
8 to 12 medium size clams with shells
8 to 12 large scallops
1 cup cod pieces, chopped in 1” squares
8 to 12 medium size raw shrimp, (shells removed but tails on)
2 cans cherry tomatoes
1 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
chicken stock, as needed enough to cover
2 bay leaves

Fig.2. The shells add flavour.


Add 4 tablespoons of olive oil to a large pot set over medium heat.  Add the garlic onion and celery and sauté until translucent, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the wine, the mussels, and the clams and cover pot with lid.  Keep the lid on and cook for about 8 to 10 minutes (shake the pot around once and a while just to move the mollusks around.) Remove lid and simmer uncovered for another 2 minutes.  Add the crushed tomatoes and the stock and bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, add the scallops and cod cubes, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, add the shrimp, parsley and season with salt and pepper and continue to simmer.  As soon as the shrimp turn pink (about 1 to 2 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp), remove from heat and serve immediately.