California Cioppino

When visiting my Aunt in California, I enjoyed awesome – and I mean awesome – cioppino. In an ironic twist, I was inspired to make a pot of California Cioppino 2,500 miles away on the Gulf Coast. The seafood varies, of course, between the Pacific Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, but the main ingredients here – mussels, tilapia, bay scallops, and shrimp – can be found in any supermarket. Don’t worry if you’re nowhere near a coastline; frozen seafood is just fine for this dish. Just pick up the seafood that is available to you in your area, put on some flip flops, and pretend the snowbank you see from your kitchen window is a white sand beach.  😉

Note: The cioppino recipe below is a stew, intended to be served in a bowl, like soup, perhaps with a side of good bread. Some folks prefer cioppino as a pasta topping. If that’s more your style, then reduce the fish broth from 4 cups all the way down to 1 1/2 cups. Other than that single change, the rest of the recipe remains the same. Your resulting cioppino will be less brothy and will hold up when served over a plate of pasta.

Ingredients (Makes a big pot; serves 8+)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 onion, diced

1 rib celery, diced

4 cups fish broth

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

24 ounces frozen mussels in shells

12 ounces tilapia fillets, fresh or thawed if frozen, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

16 ounces frozen bay scallops (keep frozen!)

24 ounces raw shrimp (fresh or thawed if frozen)

1/4 cup fresh diced parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried parsley)

Directions

Step 1) In a large stockpot saute onion in olive oil, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until onion is soft and translucent. Add celery and saute for one minute longer.

Step 2) Add fish broth, crushed tomatoes, bay leaf, and Old Bay Seasoning to the pot. (Don’t add the wine yet.) Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Step 3) Add frozen mussels and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Step 4) Add tilapia (NOT frozen) and bay scallops (frozen). Simmer, uncovered, for an additional 3 minutes.

Step 5) Finally, add raw shrimp and wine. Simmer for a final 3 minutes. At this point the shrimp should be pink (not opaque), the scallops should be bright white (not opaque), the tilapia should be flaky, and the mussels are definitely ready! Remove from heat and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.

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