Even though I haven’t visited The City by the Bay in years, I have never lost affection for all that San Francisco has to offer. I don’t just want to visit again…I yearn to be there…and, yes, it’s that wonderful a place!
But here I am all the way over on the East Coast and every once in a while I just need something that is quintessentially San Franciscan. What’s a girl to do?
I solved my dilemma–once again–by getting out my Dutch Oven and setting to work on an absolutely soul satisfying fish stew–that is known as Cioppino.
For the record, you pronounce Cioppino “Chip (soft p) Pee No” and it is a well known San Francisco treat. The great thing about Cioppino is it influenced by whatever the fresh catch is. For example, in San Francisco, which is on the Pacific, you’d probably always expect a nice amount of Dungeness in your bowl of Cioppino. But–over here on the East Coast where crab is not as prevalent–we could use shrimp or even Maine lobster tails! That’s the true beauty of Cioppino! It’s left up to you–dear cook–to find the best ingredients for your stew, so do keep that in mind when you are purchasing your fish for this dish.
There is one other important point I’d like to make about Cioppino or any other soup or stew, for that matter. Most good soup makers know that almost all homemade soups, chowders, and stews benefit from a little aging. With a day or two of resting, you allow all of the flavors to meld together, which gives the completed soup amazing depth. With that in mind, I have broken the recipe up into two sections. If you have the time, make the broth a day or two ahead. When you are ready to make the full stew, reheat the broth and add the solid ingredients.
Don’t have time to wait? That’s okay, too. Even if prepared all on the same day, this recipe is still a winner!
Let’s get to it, shall we?
Ingredients for the Broth:
olive oil, about 2 tablespoons
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
2 bottles (8 ounces each) clam juice (located near the tuna fish and other canned fish)
28 ounce can small diced or crushed tomatoes (I prefer the diced)
8 cups of water
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper, to your preference
How to prepare the broth:
Begin by heating your Dutch Oven over medium high heat for a minute. Add the olive oil and warm a minute more.
Add the onion and cook until softened. Once onion is softened, add the garlic, oregano, basil and pepper flakes and allow to simmer over low heat for a few minutes, until fragrant.
Add the wine and bring to a boil, cooking until the wine is reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes. Stir well and cook for 20 minutes over medium heat.
When thickened, add the clam juice, bay leaves and the water. Season to taste.
Bring broth to a boil then return to simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Remove the bay leaves.
For best results, make your broth a day or two ahead of preparing the entire dish and allow it to chill. You can, of course, use the broth immediately if you must.
Ingredients for Completed Stew:
Broth, prepared ahead of time and allowed to age for up to two days
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds of shellfish such as mussels, clams or cherrystones, de-bearded, rinsed and drained (I used fresh PEI mussels and some good looking cherrystones)
1 pound of large shrimp, peeled (except for the tail) and deveined OR 1 pound fresh crab–or some combination of both to equal about a pound
1 pound firm white ocean fish, cut into generous pieces (I used cod)
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh sourdough bread
Completing the stew:
Have your broth ready. If you have let it rest, heat it to a low simmer…gently.
In a large (7 quart) Dutch Oven or pot, heat your olive oil and then add the shallot. Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes or until shallot is softened. Add the sliced garlic and cook for another minute or so–until fragrant–but do not let the garlic burn. Hint: Use your big pot…you will need it at the end, trust me!
To the pan add your mussels, clams or cherrystones and the wine. Cover and cook until the shells open, which will take 4-5 minutes.
Check your shellfish to make sure they have all opened. Discard any that do not.
Add the prepared broth to the shellfish and bring to a simmer.
When at a simmer, add the fish chunks and shrimp. Cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the butter cubes and check your seasonings, adjusting as necessary.
Serve “family style” with fresh or toasted sourdough bread, which is used for dipping
Although this dish can be a little expensive to make and requires some patience, it is totally worth it!
In fact…if I were a mermaid, I’d insist on it every night!
Even though we are experiencing a bit of a thaw here in New England, it’s still Winter in my book. And, as far as I’m concerned, a hearty Beef Stew is a perfect mid-winter meal!
I’ve always prepared my Beef Stew in my slow cooker, but–as you probably know–lately I’ve been in love with a beautiful 5.5 quart Dutch Oven I received this past Christmas from my older sister.
Actually I’ve jumped so far into Dutch Oven cooking, I braved an hour journey to the South Shore to score two new Martha Stewart Dutch Ovens–in glorious Spinach green–being offered by someone on Facebook Marketplace…but that’s a story for another post…
Back to this unbelievable Beef Stew in the Dutch Oven…
What amazed me the most about making this Stew in a Dutch Oven instead of a slow cooker, is how unbelievably tender the beef was! Just melt-in-your-mouth juicy, tender and flavorful beef, which is way beyond what a slow cooker can achieve. And yet, still as simple and easy to make.
I started by browning my Stew beef (about two pounds) on top of the stove with a tiny bit of oil and, I believe, this is what made the difference in the flavor of the beef. After browning the meat, I loaded up my pot with baby carrots, some sliced celery, large chunks of red potatoes, a diced onion and minced garlic. I then stirred in some diced tomatoes, beef broth and a little tomato paste, to make the gravy and placed the covered pan in my preheated 375 degree oven to cook for three hours.
I’m a “peeker”. I am compelled to check in on things and make adjustments during cooking. Thankfully that was a good thing for this recipe, as I did need to add some water. I ended up adding about a cup of water at the end of the first and second hours, because some of the natural liquid evaporated during cooking. This was the only difference in cooking in a Dutch Oven versus a slow cooker, which naturally keeps liquids from evaporating by using a tightly sealed cover.
For those on a budget, this recipe easily makes eight complete servings and cost less than $15 to make. That’s less than $2 a meal! Plus you get the benefit of knowing you made it yourself–with no “unwanted” ingredients AND the comfort of a warm and wonderful home on a cold winter’s night.
Why not give it a go? And, if you do, let me know how you made out!
Two pounds of fresh stewing beef from your butcher
Five or six larger red potatoes, cut into large chunks
Baby carrots or regular carrots cut into large chunks
Two ribs of celery, sliced
One or two onions, rough chopped
Minced garlic to taste
1 can of petite diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
32 ounces beef broth (boxed broth) or substitute cans to equal 32 ounces
Salt and pepper
Water, if needed
On the stove top over medium high heat, brown the beef with a tablespoon of oil
Remove from heat and layer in potatoes, carrots, celery, onion and garlic
Pour in broth and diced tomatoes with juice and spoon in tomato paste
Cover Dutch Oven and put in preheated Oven for three hours, checking and gently stirring each hour. Add water if needed.