I love seafood. If you do not, this is NOT your meal… It is not really something you ought to modify to remove the fish, shellfish, etc- this is a dish that embraces the best that the ocean has to offer!
I am throwing this out there today, on Monday- so that in the off chance that your loved one enjoys seafood that you have enough time to get your act together to make this. It isn’t a lot of work, but there are a few steps. Good news- the steps can be spread out over a few days- so if you are romancing or entertaining on Friday night- no need to leave work terribly early (unless your abode is a trashpit! Then I recommend getting home as early as you can and making a good effort to scrub the toilet, counter tops, vacuum, and get your crap up off of the floor- dirty place = NOT ROMANTIC). Make people feel special and loved- they deserve clean toilets and a floor that does not resemble the beach!
(this is not a criticism of anyone! I’m just sayin’)
This version of Cioppino seriously rates in the top 5 of dishes (and fishes) that I make. It has massive flavor… it is light, yet filling. It is serious, yet at the same time- completely familiar. It is a hug… and sexy high heels all in one dish.
To make this so incredibly flavorful, I am going to ask you to make your own seafood stock. I know- you can buy it- but this is arguably cheaper, and if you can stretch your cooking out another day (or, let’s be serious- you can make this while you are cleaning your house- it is only an extra hour of mostly inactive time. What is so hard about having something at a bubble on the stove while you are scrubbing the potty?!)
All you need for the stock is: 2 carrots, unpeeled and chopped; 2 onions, peeled and chopped; 3 stalks of celery, rough chopped- include leaves if you have ’em, 2 cloves of garlic, chopped; 1 small can of tomato paste, and the shells of a pound of shrimp: buy a pound of shell-on deveined shrimp – peel the shrimp, saving the shells for the stock and the shrimps for the stew- shrimps go into the fridge until we need them. For liquid we are using a 1/2 a cup of wine (though for the whole dish you are going to need 2.5 cups of wine total- so just get a bottle for the whole dish. Sauvignon blanc is a great choice!) and 1.5 quarts of water.Brown the veggies and shrimp shells in a little olive oil for about 15 minutes over relatively high heat. You are looking for some caramelization, and you definitely want the flavors to have a chance to develop. Stir it as often as you need to- but don’t be afraid for things to brown. After 15 minutes- add the wine, tomato paste, and water. Simmer for at least an hour. If it looks low on liquid, add more water.Strain it through a mesh sieve, pressing the solids. The stock will keep several days in the fridge and not only can, but should be done in advance. It will be thick, rich, and flavorful.
Meanwhile- for the stew: 2 cups of small white potatoes (for Paleo- sub celery root or parsnips); another 2 cups of chopped onion, 3 more cloves of chopped garlic, 1 fennel bulb (large) chopped (2 cups), zest of some orange (or one clementine’s worth), 1 teaspoon saffron threads, 3-5 “shells worth” per person of your favorite shellfish (mussels, clams etc), 1 pound of white fish (cod or whatever is best), and the previously peeled shrimp. For liquids- 2 cups of white wine (sauv blanc- same as above!), 1 can of tomatoes- crushed or whole (if whole, cut the tomatoes up with scissors!).
First- I sear the potatoes in a coating of olive oil (maybe 1 tablespoon of oil for the pan). I let them sit, get crusty, moved ’em around, and repeated a bit. This helps them hold together in case things fall behind schedule and a portion of the recipe gets delayed- AND develops flavor- a win.
After the potatoes are nicely browned, add the fennel, onions, and garlic. Add 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, and 1 FULL teaspoon of red pepper flakes. Saute until the veggies are translucent- then add the 2 cups of wine, can of tomatoes, and the stock from before. Cut in several sprigs of basil and a little tarragon.
Simmer until the potatoes are cooked- anywhere from 15-20 minutes. If you need to “hold” the dish for awhile- AKA wait for someone to arrive, get dressed/be comfy, etc- this is when to turn the pot down to low and chill.
Have your appetizer. Have your salad. Open the champagne. Do what you need to do. 20 minutes before dinner-
Add the Pernod- 3 tablespoons. Add the seafood.
Allow to come to a boil; turn down to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes- then turn off the heat and cover for 5 minutes.
- 2 Carrots, chopped
- 3 stalks of celery, Chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 Yellow onions, chopped
- Shells of 1 Lb shrimp (save shrimp for stew!)
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1½ cups chopped yellow onions (2 small)
- 2 cups quartered or halved new potatoes
- 2 cups chopped fennel (1 large bulb)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes
- ⅓ cup chopped basil
- 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
- 2 cups good white wine (sauvingon blanc)
- 1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, chopped/cut with scissors
- 1 quart Seafood Stock, recipe above, or store-bought fish stock
- 3 cloves chopped garlic
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads
- 1 pound large shrimp, (reserve the shells for the stock)
- 1 pound firm white fish, such as cod, cut in large chunks
- Shellfish of your choice- we used a dozen clams; you can use mussels as well- about a pound
- 3 tablespoons Pernod
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- Saute the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, and shrimp shells until golden and caramelized- about 15 minutes. Add the tomato paste, wine, and 1½ quarts of water. Simmer for one hour. Press through a mesh strainer when done, discarding the solids. Refrigerate when cool if not using immediately.
- In a large dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the potatoes and sear until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, and fennel; 2 teaspoons of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon of hot pepper flakes and saute for about 10 minutes until softened and lightly golden. Add the wine, tomatoes, stock, basil, and tarragon; simmer for 15-20 minutes to cook the potatoes all the way. The stew can sit at this point and wait for your guests to be ready for dinner; about 10- minutes before dinner add all of the seafood, the Pernod, and the orange zest and bring the stew to a boil; turn down to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes turn the stove off, and cover for another 5 minutes.
- Serve with biscuits or garlic bread- ladle into wide shallow bowls and enjoy!
To serve- using tongs and a ladle- fish out the nicest pieces and make sure they are featured in the bowl! Ladle on a bunch of broth, and garnish with basil and fennel fronds. Serve with freshly made biscuits (recipe to come soon).