Last night’s dinner was pure California winter comfort food, a big bowl of Cioppino to drive away the damp chill. I try to make it at least once when crab is in season, mostly because it’s a shame to not take advantage of the ocean’s bounty.
The first time I ever had cioppino, in fact, the first I’d ever heard of it, was in my early twenties. My first clue it was a messy dish was the bib the waiter tied around my neck before he set my meal in front of me. I haven’t eaten cioppino in public since. It’s a meal to be shared at home with people who won’t mind that you’ve got sauce on your hands and who expect you to mop up the last few bites with a hunk of sourdough bread.
This is my tried and true recipe. It’s open to adjustment and is always a little different depending on how spicy I want it to be, whether I use tomatoes with herbs already added, and what seafood looks good at the store.
2 – 4 shallots, finely chopped
2 – 4 garlic cloves, minced
Red wine (1 cup)
2 cans crushed tomatoes
1 bottle clam juice
Fresh parsley, finely chopped (1/2 bunch)
Thyme, Oregano, Red pepper flakes (to taste)
Sauté shallots and garlic in olive oil. Add red wine & reduce. Add crushed tomatoes, clam juice, parsley, thyme, oregano, red pepper fllakes, and simmer. (I simmered mine for almost two hours, partially covered.) Add seafood.
I used Dungeness crab, scallops, shrimp, mussels, and clams, adding them the last 10 minutes of cooking.