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Cioppino on a budget... will frozen fish do?

hello all, just stumbled upon a fabulous cioppino recipe. Mom went the whole 9 yards with the seafood she bought-- wouldn't tell me how much it cost but it wasn't cheap at our local Bristol Farms store (halibut, cod, scallops, clams...) DElicious.

I am a student and would love to make it for friends. What suggestions do you have to cut costs? Pick up frozen versions of the above at Trader Joe's? Substitute for less expensive fresh seafood (like what?)?

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  1. For it to be cioppino and not just a red fish stew, you need a dungeness crab, cleaned and cracked, and some clams and/or mussels in their shells, along with whatever shelled shrimp and boneless pieces of fish you want to add.

    The mystique of this dish consists of the messy shelliness of the thing. Digging the crab meat out of its sauce-covered shells, and pulling the shellfish out of their homes makes the whole thing fun. Giant bibs are traditionally supplied to the participants.

    And, of course, you need chunks of sourdough bread to mop up the sauce.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sharuf

      ah yes, shrimp, i forgot the shrimp. for that we used TJ's frozen shrimp-- we've been using those for a long time and they are delish. And I made french baguette slices, toasted with a bit of olive oil and rubbed with a bit of raw garlic. Lovely.

      On my budget I think I'm going to have to forgo the crab... but will keep it in mind for the day when I finally have a salary.

      1. re: amandine

        Do put in some token clams or mussels for the shelly cioppino esthetic.

        1. re: Sharuf

          agreed. little neck clams are delicious and quite inexpensive... not a huge fan of mussels, personally.

    2. Sure, use some frozen seafood from TJ's. To find less expensive fresh seafood, though, go to a big Asian market like 99 Ranch Market (I'm assuming you live in the LA area since you mention Bristol Farms).

      Sarah C

      1. Frozen will work just fine. Just don't use frozen and breaded!

        1. good to hear... my mom was skeptical that it would come out well, but i didn't see why not, especially when you're cooking a stew

          1 Reply
          1. re: amandine

            In these parts (Toronto) the dunguness crab is significantly cheaper that much of the fish you mention. Dunguness runs $6.99/lb, Halibut $19.99/lb, Cod $12.99/lb, Scallops $10-20/lb varying by size, Clams $5-6/lb but the shell weighs an awful lot, Mussels $2-3/lb in bulk. All I'm saying is that you should be sure of the pricing before you decide on the seafood. Before the last couple weeks of cooking a fair bit of seafood (hence why I know these prices so clearly), I would have thought the crab more expensive than the fish. It isn't though.

          2. Last weekend I made cioppino with pristinely fresh fish bought in a small coastal town for lots of $$$ and it wasn't as good as the time I made cioppino with TJs frozen fish and misc. fish parts from my asian market. The key difference? Last weekend, even though I could buy pricey fish, I couldn't buy any fish bones & fish parts to make the fish stock. My point is that you need the cheap fish parts to make the stock (the fresh fish is only for adding at the very end), and to me the stock is key (along with caramelizing the mirepoix and using lots of wine), so yes you can make cioppino on a budget.

            I also agree you need shellfish, shrimp & crab to make it 'real' cioppino so you should really go to an Asian market to get bargains on shellfish, and to get cheap fish parts to make stock. And wait a month and the price (and yumminess) of Dungeness will drop to $3 to $4/pound.