Cioppino was created in San Francisco in the late 1800s by Portuguese and Italian immigrant fishermen who would cook up a pot right on the boat, with everyone contributing from their leftover catch of the day. It soon became a staple item at seafood restaurants in San Francisco and beyond. Usually, the seafood is cooked in broth and served in the shell (including the crab) with a crab cracker, fork, and lots of extra napkins. In my Lazy Girl’s version, only the clams are left in their shells, so it is much easier to serve and eat.
I love cooking seafood this way – no fishy smell in the oven, no broiler pan to clean, no barbecue to fire up… just a pot full of tender chunks of white fish, baby clams, and prawns in a rich and spicy tomato broth.
If you live here in the Puget Sound area, finding fresh seafood, including clams, is easy. If you don’t have access to fresh clams, you can substitute canned. Mussels are a wonderful (and traditional) addition but Marvin doesn’t like them so I (sometimes) leave them out.
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 2 tsp. salt
- 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
- 2 cups clam juice
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 2 1/2 lbs. assorted firm fleshed fish, shrimp, clams & mussels (I used 1 pound manila clams, scrubbed)
- 1/2 lb. halibut, cut into 1" chunks
- 1/4 lb. prawns, peeled and deveined
- 1/4 lb. Dungeness crab meat
- Juice from one small lemon
- *Make a bouquet garni to use in the soup by tying together a few sprigs of parsley, rosemary, oregano and fennel with kitchen twine. Chop some additional fresh parsley to add to the soup just before serving.
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the sliced fennel, chopped onion, chopped celery and salt. Sauté until the vegetables are soft, approximately 10 minutes.
- Add the chopped garlic and the red pepper flakes and sauté for another 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and then add the tomatoes (with juice), wine, clam juice, chicken stock, and a bouquet garni* of fresh herbs if desired.
- Simmer to blend the flavors, about 20 minutes. Remove the bouquet garni. Add the clams to the cooking liquid, cover and cook until the clams begin to open, about 3 minutes. Add the prawns and fish and continue cooking about 3 minutes longer. Just before serving, stir in the dungeness crab meat, a handful of fresh parsley, and the lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and serve!