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Jul 25, 2005 01:19 PM

Cioppino report and questions

  • c

Squeezing out every bit of goodness from our 9-lb. whole salmon, I made a cioppino over the weekend for the first time (pictured below). I used the salmon stock I made a few days before w/ the head, tail, and large bones. I wasn't sure if stock would taste very good w/ salmon as its basis, but the final result was multi-layered, fragrant, and not too oily. Along w/ the fish parts, I used onion, celery, carrots, tomato paste, fennel seed, saffron threads, bay leaf, S&P. Simmered for over an hour and strained, resulting in about 5 qts. of stock.

I wanted to find a recipe true to cioppino's San Francisco origins, but didn't care for some recipes that looked too basic so went w/ a Saveur recipe (linked below) that comes from Hayes St. Grill in SF. I had to omit the Dungeness that's traditionally used since it's no longer in season here. My intent was to use scallops, clams, and salmon, but obstacles thwarted that and left me w/ shrimp, halibut, and salmon in my final version.

I cut the recipe in half. I used all the ingredients called for but added diced celery and tomato paste and fiddled w/ proportions. Most significantly, I used alot more fish stock (about 3x more) since I had it and wanted a more soupy consistency. After simmering, I also blended the stew a bit w/ an immersion blender before straining. I still kept it chunky before straining, but use this blending technique for making bouillabaisse so applied it here. I believe it helps to extrapolate every bit of flavor better.

The final result was really delicious, I must say. Served it w/ garlic sourdough bread. The broth was rich yet not cloying and had a complex orchestra of background notes. The kind of dish that you get at a restaurant and can't quite pinpoint all the ingredients. Hehe, but yours truly was the "chef de cuisine" here, so I was the wiser. The lemon zest was great, and I wondered how orange zest might work. The cayenne gave it just the right kick. The salmon stock worked really well w/ cioppino's assertive and spicy flavors; can't see it being as good for bouillabaisse.

Questions: Even though I was pretty pleased w/ this version, I'm still curious about other recipes. Does anyone have a truly traditional SF-style cioppino recipe that might rival the deliciousness of this one? Is the traditional version supposed to be chunky and not strained? Also, does anyone have a good recipe for a Mexican seafood soup (caldo) since I still have a good amt. of fish stock? Thanks!



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  1. You might also try your hand at (cajun) Redfish Courtbouillon - coincidentally, I made that just last night with some fish stock that my friend made recently. Something about roux, tomatoes, stock is just darn good.

    10 Replies
    1. re: rudeboy
      Hungry Celeste

      And I was thinking that a nice seafood gumbo would be a great use of all that seafood stock...(blue) crab, shrimp, oyster...

      1. re: Hungry Celeste

        Ooooh, gumbo sounds like a winner, especially since I'm addicted to okra right now.

        Would you or anyone else care to share your best seafood gumbo recipe? Thanks!

        1. re: Carb Lover
          Hungry Celeste

          Ah, I don't put okra in a mixed seafood gumbo. Sorry. Okra and shrimp, yes, but no okra when there's crab in the pot. And I don't really follow a recipe for seafood gumbo--it is imprinted in my DNA! I just go into the kitchen and it makes itself, in quantities ranging from a quart to 15 gallons. I can give you a process, but not exact quantities, because of the improvisational nature of both my cooking and of gumbo. On the other hand, my daddy's seafood & meat gumbo recipe is in our community cookbook, but the recipe serves 200...see link below.


          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            Yes - we were the same with the okra. We'd put okra in shrimp gumbo, okra in chicken and sausage gumbo, but for some reason not in seafood. I suppose it won't kill you, though.

            The real trick if you've never made it before is to get the roux cooked properly, then properly hydrate it. Many first timers "break" the roux of it's ability to store water, so you end up with starch globs in water.

            When the roux is finished to chocolate, most people add onions, celery, and bell pepper (I don't put bell pepper in yet) and cook that down. The water from the vegetables hydrates it a little, then you slowly add the WARM fish stock (for seafood). 3/4 cup of roux for 2 qts stock.

            I like the nuance of the courtbouillon when I have good fish and no shrimp or crab. It's more of a fish stew, like catalan bouillabaisse than a typical french courtbouillon. To the roux, after the onions, pince tomato paste along with it. Good fish stock, lemon, lots of thyme, tomato chunks, etc....mmmm!

            1. re: rudeboy
              Hungry Celeste

              The thyme is the secret, I think, but I do add a little white wine as well.

              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                Thanks for both your tips; I think I can cobble something together worth eating. I still have a good amount of frozen shrimp so think I'll go w/ the shrimp and okra version. Apologies for my faux pas of mixing okra in seafood gumbo. :-)

                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  Yes - i forgot to say that. Do you have a family recipe for Court Bouillon?

                  1. re: rudeboy
                    Hungry Celeste

                    I use the courtbouillon recipe in Leon Soniat's "La Bouche Creole" cookbook; it is a very good one.

                    1. re: Hungry Celeste

                      You know what sucks? I bought that cookbook at a used bookstore about a month ago. I forgot to look over the recipe yesterday! Thanks for the info.....

          2. re: Hungry Celeste

            I guess back to her original question, which I ignored because I made "kubion" last night (that's how we pronounced it growing up), was for a mexican type soup! I recently had a Caldo de Mariscos En Coco at a a Salvadorian restaurant that was flavored with good chile heat, cumin, and coconut milk. It was awesome, but i don't have a recipe.

        2. I'm a little disheartened that I haven't gotten any leads for another cioppino recipe. Even though I was happy w/ mine, it was my first, and there's always room for improvement. Shrimp gumbo sounds good, but I still would like to collect people's favorite cioppino recipes. I especially want to make this when Dungeness is at its peak again. If you don't have time to paraphrase the recipe, pointers to a source would be helpful. Thanks!

          5 Replies
          1. re: Carb Lover

            Mine is rather purist. I don't like oily fish in this application. So here's mine: i saute about 3-4 cloves of chopped garlic in about 1/4 c. virgin olive oil till soft. But don't brown them. To this I add about a pound of sole or pike (cut into chunks) then pour in about a cup to a cup and a half of dry vermouth (white wine works as well), a pound of juicy tomatoes chopped medium - making sure the juice gets poured in there too, a pinch of sugar, a shake of dried oregano (greek is best) and a little salt and pepper. Keep at a simmer. DO NOT BOIL. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add a pound of cleaned large shrimp and cook about 3-5 minutes more. I sprinkle it with plenty of finely minced fresh italian parsley and serve with crusty bread. If you want to strech it out a little, add a pound of scrubbed little neck clams. This will serve 4 people amply. Or the two of us, happily.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              Cioppino to me is a San Francisco Dungeness crab dish in a Italian tomatoe sauce. It is not a soup. When I make it I make a good tomatoe sauce with good quality canned tomatoes (or fresh peeled and seeded tomatoes), onion, garlic, fennel seed (crushed) and basic Italian spices. I toss in the cooked, cracked crab until warm and serve it with sourdough bread.

              Most people (including me) add white fish, clams, shrimp etc. to add variety. I don't use oily fish like salmon although it's very common to do so in Portland and/or Seattle. That's the way I do it. By the way yours looks and sounds delicious. I have nothing against salmon, in fact I love it, I just don't think of it as traditional in cioppino. Good luck

              1. re: Robert

                I certainly never had salmon in cioppino in SF before --sounds strange to me.

              2. re: Carb Lover

                i don't remember where i got this - i feel like it was on


                1/3 cup olive oil
                2 large onions, chopped
                1 cup minced celery
                1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
                2 tablespoons minced garlic
                2 cups canned crushed tomatoes with added puree
                1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
                1 cup dry red wine
                1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
                2 6 1/2-ounce cans chopped clams with juices
                1 teaspoon dried rosemary
                1 teaspoon dried thyme
                1 teaspoon dried oregano
                1 small bay leaf
                1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
                Pinch of ground allspice
                Pinch of ground cinnamon
                2 cups water
                1 cup white wine
                12 cherrystone clams, scrubbed
                1 1/4 pounds cooked crabmeat
                1 pound sea bass, cut into 1-inch pieces
                8 ounces medium shrimp, peeled, deveined

                Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, parsley and garlic; sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes with their juices; simmer 10 minutes. Add red wine, red wine vinegar, canned clams with juices, rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, allspice and cinnamon. Simmer 30 minutes.
                Add water, white wine and cherrystone clams to stew. Simmer until clams open, about 10 minutes (discard any clams that do not open). Add crabmeat, sea bass and shrimp and simmer until fish and shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Ladle into large bowls and serve.

                Serves 6

                1. re: yfoodie

                  Just to give credit where it's due, this recipe for Grandfather's Cioppino was published in Bon Appetit back in 1996 and was submitted by Larry Minetti of Martinez, California.

              3. I like to put some chopped up preserved lemons in fish soup and they're especially good with cioppino or bouilebaisse. I use the whole thing - flesh and skin. They're easy to make and add a lot to these dishes.

                If you don't have a recipe, I'll be glad to post Paula Wolfert's.