Five a.m. Finds: Cioppino

8 Nov

I keep waking up at 5 in the morning. Don’t ask me why, I have no idea. But at least once a week, my eyes open and BAM, brain is on and there is no turning it off. I get up and I’m just restless, so I go to the only place that’s open, the grocery store. I’m pretty stiff most mornings, so walking the aisles at least gets me more mobile. I stop to look at all the things I never have time to look at when I go in with a list. Sometimes I get really good ideas.

For instance, one recent morning, I was walking by the frozen case next to the seafood counter and spotted a 12 oz. package of frozen, mixed shellfish. I instantly thought of cioppino, the seafood and shellfish stew I love but have never actually made. I guess I felt intimidated by it. Cod was on sale at the seafood counter, so I got a couple of fillets, and I hoped that a delicious menagerie of seafood and shellfish in a rich tomato broth was not far away. Still probably a little bleary-eyed, I got the rest of my ingredients and made it home before the sun was up.

It turns out, this is not only an incredibly delicious meal to make, it’s actually a pretty easy one too. It sort of made me wonder why I’d never done it before. It’s just making a broth and then simmering the seafood in it. Sweet and simple.

Cioppino

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • ½ fennel bulb, sliced OR 1 tsp. fennel seeds, toasted
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 qt. seafood stock
  • 8 oz. cod, halibut, or other firm white fish cut into cubes
  • 12 oz. mixed shellfish – I used a package of frozen mussels, clams, and shrimp
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a bit of olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium-low heat. Once it is fragrant, add the onions, garlic, fennel/fennel seed, basil, and cherry tomatoes and sweat until soft, 3-4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook 1 minute more.

Add the wine and simmer until the liquid has mostly evaporated, 5-6 minutes.

Add the crushed tomatoes and seafood stock. Return the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 40 minutes.

Strain the broth, being sure to press the solids and extract all of the liquid.

Return the broth to the heat and bring it back to a simmer. Add the shellfish and cod and return the mixture to a simmer.

Cook just until the shellfish open and the fish flakes easily. This only took 3-4 minutes for the seafood I used.

Ladle into a bowl and serve with some crusty bread.

Like I said, I feel sort of crazy for putting this one off for so long. The broth is savory, rich, and has a beautiful scent of fennel. The cod is flaky, the shellfish are juicy, and both soak up the broth’s flavors perfectly. Everything makes sense together. And trust me, you need that bread to get every last bit of the broth, it’s that good.

Let my 5 am grocery store wandering be your reward! This one is well worth trying at home, especially when you put it up against what you’d pay at any restaurant. You’ll be patting yourself on the back in no time.

Ciao for now,

Neen

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