Steve has been after me to make cioppino for years now. The man just loves this San Francisco seafood stew. If we go out for Italian and cioppino is on the menu, chances are that is what he will order. And after almost every first bite, he looks at me and says, “someday I wish you would make this for me”. Goodness gracious, I’m so glad I finally did!
So why did I wait so long? If you follow the blog you know that although I don’t dislike tomatoes, I’m not usually a big fan of tomato-based foods. There are several dishes I do like, and you will find them in my recipes. But my first instinct when given the choice of something tomato-based versus something not, my choice is often the “something not”.
We have been purchasing the frozen jumbo scallops at Costco for years now. I don’t believe I have ever gotten a bad scallop from Costco, so I trust the product. Next to the scallops is usually a 2.5-pound bag of a frozen seafood medley. Steve has been eyeing that product for quite a while now. Well, about a month ago, he put a bag of the seafood medley in our cart and asked me to make him some cioppino.
This picture came from the Costco web site. I include it here so you can see the product I am talking about. Obviously, their picture is dated. Trust me, our medley was NOT dated 2015!
Unless you live near the coasts, it can be sometimes difficult to get fresh tasting seafood. Since we’ve had such great luck with the scallops, I was willing to give the seafood medley a shot.
Once I committed to making him his beloved fish stew, I knew I wanted to make the best version I possibly could. If you follow my stories, you know that meant I had to go out and do some research!
I found several recipes and plucked things I liked out of each. My thoughts were that I would make him a first attempt and refine it from there. Only the first attempt was SO delicious, I parked it there. Not moving from this one unless someone shows me something better, folks.
Let’s Make Some Cioppino
Fair warning. There are quite a few ingredients. But that’s what makes the broth for cioppino so sublime. The process is almost ridiculously simple so don’t let the list of ingredients scare you off.
I like to get the whole plum tomatoes and then puree them myself. The plum tomatoes taste better to me.
I don’t chop the onions too much because I like the texture they add to the finished product.
I also get frozen cod fillets at Costco. It is another staple I keep in my chest freezer. I like the Kirkland brand because they cut perfect sized portions and then seal each fillet separately, so you can defrost only what you need. I use 2 fillets, and then cut them into 2-inch cubes.
As for the seafood medley, you can see that I separated the mussels from the shrimp, calamari, and scallops. That is because the mussels are already cooked while the other seafood is raw. Therefore, the mussels must be added to the stew later than the raw seafood or they will become tough.
Inspect the mussels and discard any that are not opened. There are contradicting views as to whether it is a myth that closed muscles were likely dead before cooking and may be spoiled. However, why risk it?
Start by sautéing the chopped onion in the olive oil and adding the dry seasonings. Cook just until the onion is slightly softened and you can smell the aroma of the combined ingredients.
Then add the garlic, fresh thyme, the tomato paste, and the liquid ingredients.
Stir well, bring to a boil, then reduce the flame and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.
Taste the broth and add salt, if needed. I do not add salt because the chicken broth and pureed tomatoes provide enough salt for me. I do, however, add some fresh cracked pepper at this point.
Then I gently drop in the raw seafood, making sure to cover them in the broth. Bring back to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes to cook the raw seafood through.
Gently stir in the mussels so as not to break up the chunks of cooked fish throughout the stew. Cook just until the mussels are heated through.
Then pour into soup plates and serve nice and hot, garnished with plenty of chopped Italian parsley and a drizzle of high-quality olive oil. I served ours with some garlic-and-olive oil sourdough crostini I asked Steve to grill up for me.
And look at that, people! Is that not a thing of beauty?
The reason I loved this recipe from the start is because the broth has SO many layers! The tomato is only one of the layers, and not at all the dominant one. The herbs, the onion and garlic, and the wine all make their presence known in a way that makes the broth so vibrant! It is bright and beautiful.
The seafood is tender, the parsley adds a bright spot of freshness, and the broth just keeps going. We enjoyed this dish so much that I made it again last weekend for our son Matt. Matt loves seafood and he had two helpings of cioppino. But halfway through the meal he told me, “Mom, what makes this dish is the broth. The seafood is delicious, but the broth is amazing!”
So, there you have it. The final verdict. Steve has turned me into a cioppino top fan. If not already, I bet that after trying this recipe, you’ll become one too!
- 1 bag Costco Seafood Medley (approx. 2.5 lbs.), defrosted, cooked mussels separated from the remaining raw seafood (discard any unopened mussels)
- 1 pound boneless, skinless cod fillets, cut into 2-inch cubes
- 3 8-ounce bottles clam juice
- 1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, pureed
- 1 large onion, medium dice
- 4 garlic cloves, diced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1½ cups white wine (such as Pinot Grigio or a dry Chardonnay)
- ¾ teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 teaspoon dry oregano
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt (optional)
- Fresh cracked pepper
- ½ cup chopped Italian parsley (for garnish)
- Olive oil to drizzle before serving (optional)
- Heat a large Dutch oven to medium high.
- When hot, add the olive oil, onion and dry seasonings.
- Cook just until the onion is tender and you can smell the aroma of the combined ingredients.
- Then add the garlic, fresh thyme, the tomato paste, and the liquid ingredients.
- Stir well, bring to a boil, then reduce the flame and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes.
- Taste the broth and add salt, if needed, and some fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
- Gently drop in the raw seafood, making sure to cover everything in the broth.
- Bring back to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes or until the raw seafood is cooked through.
- Gently stir in the mussels so as not to break up the chunks of cooked fish throughout the stew. Cook just until the mussels are heated through, about 5 minutes.
- Pour into soup plates and serve, garnished with plenty of chopped Italian parsley and a drizzle of high-quality olive oil.