Alcatraz may be one of the many legendary and attention-grabbing attractions making San Francisco a colorful destination, but Ciopinno is positively an icon there. With a name like Cioppino, it has a heavy Italian influence permeating from the Genoese settlers in the 1800’s. It is a sought after culinary sensation, offered at almost every restaurant in the Golden City, with countless chefs giving it their own spin.
This is a savory and superlative brothy soup, which is very adaptable since any variety of shellfish and fish can be utilized. Cioppino (ciuppin meaning “little broth”) is a relative to the French Bouillabaisse, not as time consuming in preparation, yet just as impressive when ladled into big shallow bowls. Laden with seafood it is a crustacean lovers dream.
There are many variations, some adding mirepoix, bell peppers, leeks, cognac and Dungeness crab. Whatever variation you choose to prepare Cioppino is seafood overload for the senses.
½ LB of cod, red snapper or halibut fillets cut into 1” pieces
½ LB of uncooked peeled shrimp – tails left on
½ LB of mussels – scrubbed and de-bearded
½ LB of little neck clams – scrubbed
3 TBSP olive oil
½ bulb of fresh fennel – finely chopped
3 medium shallots – finely chopped
4 garlic cloves – peeled and smashed
½ bunch of fresh basil – left whole for easy removal
3-4 bay leaves
1 TSP each of dried thyme and oregano
½ TSP crushed red pepper
1 TSP fennel seeds – toasted and ground in a spice mill
2 TBSP tomato paste
1 28 oz can of whole San Marzano tomatoes – crushed by hand and cores removed
1 TSP sugar
1 cup of dry white wine
1 small bottle of clam juice
1 1/2 cups of water
Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Chopped fresh parsley
In a large Dutch oven, add 3-4 TBSP of olive oil and sweat the shallots and the fennel with some salt and the pepper flakes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, the dried fennel, thyme and oregano. Cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and the wine and reduce for another 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, clam juice, water, sugar, salt, pepper and the basil left whole. Simmer for about 20 minutes to deepen and develop the flavors. Stir in the fish, shrimp and mussels and cover with the lid until the seafood is cooked about 5 minutes. Discard any mussels or clams that haven’t opened. Serve with crusty, country bread to dunk into the broth.