Here is the recipe for the cioppino hot pot that we made for our recent Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 dinner
The first time I visited California, my uncle took me down to Monterey to go see the aquarium there. That evening, we went out to dinner and I ordered the cioppino. It was the best, most amazing seafood soup I had ever tasted. I was hooked on cioppino.
Fast forward several years later to when Annie and I had been living here in the Bay Area a few years. I've always had that cioppino on my mind. One evening, Annie made a huge pot of cioppino for us and a group of friends, using the Tadich Grill Cioppino recipe from Saveur Magazine. Everyone loved it.
Covering the Cost
In fact, our guests loved the cioppino so much, they said that they would gladly pay us to make it again. All that wonderful but expensive seafood made doing this dish at home cost-prohibitive. But if we had some help getting the ingredients, we could do it. What could be better than having someone else cover the cost of the meal?
Enter the Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 program. Each month, Foodbuzz features 24 blogs doing 24 meals in a single 24 hour period. If you are selected as one of the 24 bloggers to present a meal that month, you receive a stipend that will help cover the cost of the meal. Cool beans!
Build a Better Cioppino
When Annie and I were developing our proposal for the meal, we were thinking of incorporating a Chinese New Year theme. Hot pot is a really popular dish among Chinese, especially around Chinese New Year. (In fact, Kian Kho of the excellent Red Cook food blog also did an amazing hot pot dinner for his Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24 meal. I guess great minds think alike!)
But I didn't want to do just a regular hot pot. I wanted to give it a San Francisco Bay twist to it. I thought, what's a seafood soup dish that's popular in the San Francisco Bay Area. *ding!* (lightbulb flashes on) Cioppino! Of course!
We could totally do this! It would be great, because we wouldn't have to worry about how much all the seafood was going to cost. In fact, it would be better and healthier to do a cioppino hot pot-style. Why?
Higher in Flavor, Lower in Fat
The original Tadich Grill cioppino recipe calls for all the fish, shrimp and scallops to be dredged in flour and fried in butter and oil. A cup of olive oil and 16 tablespoons of butter, to be exact. Sure, that cioppino would have tons of flavor. But that's an awful lot of fat. And remember, Annie hates frying fish.
Doing this cioppino hot pot-style, there would be no fish frying. Everything gets cooked in the broth, right at the table. The meal would be high in flavor yet lower in fat. Me likes!
Procuring and Preparing the Ingredients
We knew exactly where to go to get our seafood: our favorite fishmonger, Pat from Mission Fresh Fish. Pat has supplied us with fish for several of our recipes, including Pan-Fried Sanddabs, Wild Salmon Cakes, and Ikan Pepes. And he always gives us a good deal.
We gave him a call, told him what we were doing and what we wanted and placed our order. The day of the dinner, we went over to the Saratoga Farmer's Market to pick up our seafood. As soon as we got home, we started prepping.
First, we peeled the large shrimp, leaving the shells on just the last tail section. We took the peeled shrimp shells and boiled them in some water to make a shrimp stock, which we then strained.
Large Shrimp and Cooked Bay Shrimp for Cioppino
Next, we sliced up the halibut fillets into thin slices. We also cleaned the scallops, removing any of the harder muscle. The scallops gave off a lot of liquid, so we had to drain them on paper towels for a while.
Sliced Halibut and Large Scallops for Cioppino
Then, we cleaned the clams and mussels. We tried our best to pick out the dead ones (they don't close tight when you squeeze them). We pulled off the mussel "beards" as well.
Clams and Mussels for Cioppino
Finally, we removed the cooked Dungeness crab bodies from their shells and cleaned off the gills and guts. Then we cut each body section into quarters.
Dungeness Crab Sections for Cioppino
The ingredient list for the cioppino broth is:
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and finely minced
2 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
1 leek, white part only, trimmed, cleaned, and chopped
1⁄2 small fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped
2 28-oz. cans crushed Italian tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
4 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried basil
2 pinches cayenne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, the veggies were sauteed in a large stock pot with 8 Tablespoons of butter and 1/2 cup olive oil.
Sauteeing Vegetables for Cioppino Broth
Then Annie added the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, followed by 6 cups of shrimp broth. Next came the herbs and spices. For an added Asian twist, we put in a stalk of lemongrass that had been lightly crushed. We brought the cioppino broth to a boil, then lowered the heat and simmered, stirring occasionally and adjusting the seasonings to taste.
Adding Crushed Tomatoes to Cioppino Broth
(Oh, one more thing. Remember the crab shells from the Dungeness crab? There's a lot of lovely crab fat and tomalley left in the shell. We scraped all that into the cioppino broth as well. Mmmmm-MM!)
As the dinner hour got closer, Annie heated up a large skillet with a couple Tablespoons of oil and 2 cloves of garlic (minced). She then poured in 2 cups of Sauvignon Blanc and brought that to a boil. Working in batches, she tossed in the clams and mussels, covered the skillet, and let them steam for a few minutes. The clams and mussels that popped open were transferred to a bowl and set aside. (We discarded any that didn't open.)
Steamed Clams for Cioppino
Dinner Time - Let's Eat!
I had set up a portable butane stove in the middle of our dining table. After our Thai-inspired Caesar salad course was cleared, we started cooking the cioppino hot pot. We transferred some of the broth from the large stock pot into a shallower pot, and brought that to a boil over the butane stove. Then we lay down some of the shrimp, fish, scallops, clams, mussels, and finally Dungeness crab sections into the broth. Covered the pot and let it come to a boil again.
Cioppino Hot Pot Boiling
Within a few minutes, the cioppino broth came to a boil. We ladled out all the seafood into individual bowls (one of our guests, Michael from Cooking for Engineers, has a good picture of his bowl of cioppino.) Then, it was time to chow down.
Ladle Full of Cioppino
I could tell that there wasn't as much butter in this version of cioppino compared to the previous versions. But that didn't matter, because the stew was bursting with so many other flavors. From the sweet shrimp, scallops and crab to the firm halibut flesh to the briny clams and mussels, it was perfect.
After everyone finished their first portion, we refilled with more cioppino broth from the stock pot, and started a second batch of seafood boiling. After that second helping, we were feeling pretty full, but pretty good!