Easy Cioppino base
Michele had asked about bottled or premade bases for Cioppino to avoid hours in the kitchen:
I don't know of good places to get it in the East Bay, but wanted to post here to suggest my way of making a good base without spending hours in the kitchen: the secret for me is bottled clam juice, since I don't have the patience to make fish stock!
you really don't need to spend all day doing it, in fact, I am not convinced you really would want to: Cioppino is composed of ingredients that are best if not long-cooked.
Unfortunately, I never follow an exact recipe, and it may vary depending on how many I am cooking for, my mood, and all of that.
However, I have found one on Epicurious that is quite similar, to what I do. Here is their recipe:
and here is how I would modify it: follow the ingredients list and preparation through the end of the first paragraph, except that I would at least double the amount of clam juice and NOT use any chicken stock. That's your base right there. Other changes, all optional: I usually use white wine rather than red (I like a somewhat less hearty base), and would also use fresh herbs (thyme and oregano) rather than dried, and I do use some basil, but I add it to the base rather than at the end. I also would cut the amount of red pepper flakes quite a bit; I don't think cioppino should be really spicy. Also, I am not a bell pepper fan but would add some celery instead (sauteeing it with the onions and garlic). Also, I add some bits of crabmeat to the base as it cooks. This is in addition to the crab that goes into the base after it is stewed, and is intended to be a flavor enhancer *not* a main ingredient.
As for the seafood: pretty much the way it is described in the recipe, except that I rarely include scallops (it is overkill, IMO); and (should go without saying) the crab is Dungeness, not King Crab...both claws and legs, with a bit of the body meat in the stew as indicated above and the rest added when the seafood is added; prawns, mussels and clams as indicated. I don't use snapper, usually use small amounts of halibut or perhaps ling cod or something else more sustainable...
I love it, if I do say so myself....
I made that epicurious recipe for New Years Eve with Dungeness crab and it was great as is. I found it kind of difficult to serve it neatly from a stock pot though and wondered if using wider pan would make it easier to serve everyone a bit of everything with out breaking up the fish in the meantime. I'll try that next time.
Alos I might not use scallops, overkill indeed.
Susan - your corrections are right on. The epicurious recipe seems warped to make it workable in other parts of the country, and you brought it back home.
Some dishes are so much of a place that IMO it's silly to try to recreate them far from their native territory, which usually requires using substitutions.
Yes, this point was brought home to me the time I made the cioppino on a camp stove at the Van Damme Campground in Mendocino, during one of my dive club camping/abalone dive trips. Since I don't dive for abalone (I am a lousy free diver, and of course tanks aren't allowed during recreational ab diving), I wanted to make something special for the guys and gals who were bringing ab to the potluck.
anyway, I got the mussells, clams and crab from a local market on the docks, and the ling cod was cauht by one of the guys while diving earlier in the day. Anyway, even though my kitchen was that Coleman stove, it was absolutely the best tasting version of this dish I've ever made. Helped by outdoor appetites and the fact that the fog was coming in and making for a cool evening, but still, very much in the moment and of the place, which made it particularly delicious!
That's a great story, Susan.
I concur with using ling cod for cioppino. It holds up well in a stew-y medium and the firm texture is a nice contrast to the shellfish components.
Also want to recommend AGAINST adding salmon, as its oiliness tends to take over the pot. And during Dungeness crab season, wild's mostly out of season.