Even in the cold winter months I have cravings for fresh seafood, so I’ll take it any way I can get it. A cioppino is a Californian spin on an Italian dish called zuppa di pesce, which is a white wine and tomato based broth with a slightly spicy taste and a lot of fresh seafood. The flavors can be built in layers, making the aromas heavenly. I was inspired to try to make this at home after enjoying an amazing zuppa di pesce at a little Italian restaurant last month. I took a combination of ideas from bon appetit’s recipe and added a little influence from Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe to come up with this:
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped (Optional)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-2 tbsp, flour
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less)
- Kosher Salt, Black Pepper
- About 8-10 oz. of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand (depending on how you like your broth)
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine, I used an oakey Chardonnay
- 1 1/2 cups of seafood stock
- 1 filet of any semi-firm white fish, I used halibut
- 1/2 dozen scallops
- 1 dozen clams or mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded
- About 2 dozen shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Fresh Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
- Country Style Crusty Bread for dipping, YUM
First, lightly toast the fennel seeds in a small sauce pan until fragrant. Be careful not to burn them. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the seed until they are fine.
In a dutch oven or soup pot, saute the onion, fennel seed, and fennel in the olive oil until they become translucent. Add the fennel seed dust, bay leaf, thyme, and red pepper flakes. Saute for another 10 minutes or so on medium heat until the flavors meld together. Add the flour on top and stir until combined, cook for at least a few minutes to help disguise the raw flour taste. This will make the soup a bit more thick rather than watery.
Add the crushed tomatoes, white wine, and stock and bring it to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer covered for about 30 minutes or so. This will allow the flavors to build on each other and creates a really delicious broth. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
When you are ready to eat, season the fish and scallops with salt and pepper and add to the soup base along with the shrimp and shellfish. Cover the pot and turn the heat up a little to medium low. After about 5-8 minutes, you can peak in the pot and see if the shellfish begin to open up. When they are open, your cioppino is ready!
Garnish with freshly chopped Italian flat leaf parsley and a slice of crusty bread for soaking up those delicious seafood juices.