I made a proclamation duirng the week leading up to the playoff game between the 49ers and the Saints - if the Niners won, I'd make cioppino for the NFC Championship game, and serve it with sourdough, SF Beer and Napa wine. (LOTS of wine was needed to wash down the championship game!)
A couple of problems - I'd never actually made cioppino before, and I wanted to watch the game, not tend the stove. After researching in my cookbooks and the giant recipe box known as the web, I settled on Oven Baked Cioppino from SFGate, the web home of the San Francisco Chronicle.
We were having a group, so I made a double recipe. Turns out that wasn't necessary but leftovers are great! Recipe follow with pictures and my notes in italics.Ingredients:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 large head fennel, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 large leek, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons
- 1 green pepper, diced small
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, coarsely chopped
- -- Kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cups bottled clam juice
- 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and coarsely chopped
- -- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 pounds local thick-fleshed fresh fish (we used a mixture of red snapper and black cod), cut into 2-inch chunks
- 2 Dungeness crabs, about 3 pounds total, cracked and cleaned (see Note)
- -- Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
-- Home-baked croutons, crostini or fresh crusty bread, for serving
Clam juice was absurdly expensive, so I made a stock by boiling the crab body shells and the shrimp peels. Put them all in a large skillet, covered with water and kept at a low simmer for about an hour. I'd read that rapidly boiling or stirring seafood stock makes it muddy, so I just let it simmer, then strained through a fine mesh strainer. Turned out nice and clear with a clean seafood flavor.
Also, for my double recipe, I used 6 crabs, 3 lbs fish and 2 lbs shrimp. Had planned to add mussels at the end but they were not good when I went to put them in and had to be discarded.
In a large stockpot over medium heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions, fennel, leeks and green peppers, and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened, about 6-8 minutes.
Add the garlic, bay leaves, oregano, red pepper flakes and thyme, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and saute until the mixture becomes fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. When the tomato paste starts sticking to the pot, pour in the white wine, scraping to incorporate the stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until the wine is reduced by half.
Recipe following fail #1: I didn't read the instruction above and just dumped the tomato paste and wine in with the step that follows. Doesn'' seem to have ruined anything.
Add the clam juice, broth, crushed and chopped tomatoes, and stir well. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.
Season to taste with salt, pepper and lemon juice. Remove from heat and cool completely. You can either do this two nights before you plan to serve the cioppino and refrigerate overnight, or cool quickly by placing the pot in an ice water bath in the sink and stir until it's at least room temperature.
I used a ice water bath followed by setting it outside, as it was about 30 degrees out.
The night before you plan to serve the cioppino, divide the seafood, except for the crab, between two 9- by 13-inch baking dishes (they should be suitable for serving). Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper, and divide the cooled base between the two dishes, fully submerging the seafood in the liquid. Wrap well and refrigerate overnight.
Recipe following fail #2: didn't read "except the crab." This one had me worried but the taste & texture was fine, and I thought the the falvor infused nicely into the crab meat.
I used one large roasting pan and one 10x15 pan.
To serve, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cover the baking dishes with aluminum foil, and bake for about 30-35 minutes, until fish is cooked through and broth is hot. Remove the foil, add the crab, and cook for 10 minutes more.
The large roasting pan needed double this amount to come to temperature.
The cioppino went a lot better than the game for this houseful of SF fans!