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Cioppino (Italian Seafood Soup)

  • Category: Seafood, Soup
  • Submitted By: Isaac Owsley
  • Town/State: Sonora, CA
  • Serving Size: 8-10
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Cooking time: 35-45 minutes

When most people think of traditional dishes served around Christmas time, they tend to think of things like roast turkey with stuffing, standing rib roast with horseradish sauce, or Baked Ham with Honey Mustard sauce. But if you were to ask a family from certain coastal regions of Italy what traditional Christmas dinner is, the first thing to come to mind would be Cioppino, a delicious fish stew that originated aboard traveling merchant ships. A cousin of French Bouillabaisse, the ingredients can vary depending on region and the availability of seasonal fish and shellfish. In this area and the bay area such ingredients usually consist of ling cod, shrimp, hard-shell clams, scallops, calamari and Dungeness crab (which in my opinion is quite possibly superior even to lobster). One of the classic mistakes made with most recipes for this dish is that of making the soup base too complex, adding a myriad of herbs and spices until the sweet, delicate flavors of the shellfish is completely masked and all you are left with is a glorified tomato sauce with pieces of overcooked seafood in it. This recipe is one that has been in my own family for as long as I can remember and is, as simple to prepare, as it is delicious.

Amount Measure Ingredients
3 46oz cans tomato juice (not sauce)
4 oz margarine
2 tbsp dried sweet basil
4 tbsp chopped garlic
5 Large Dungeness crabs cleaned and split in two
2 lbs about 21-30 count shrimp
1 tablespoon stone ground brown mustard
1 lb sea scallops (about 51-60 count)
2 lbs medium hard shell clams
1 lb calamari steaks sliced into ½” strips
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 lb ling cod fillet sliced into 2″ chunks

To prepare:

Heat a large stockpot over medium high heat, melt the margarine but do not allow to brown. Reduce heat to medium and add the garlic and basil. Sauté the basil and garlic until the garlic turns translucent. Add the tomato juice and bring to a simmer add the crab, then return just to a simmer, next add the clams, again returning to simmer. Add the calamari, shrimp, scallops and fish and return to a simmer. Allow to cook for another 3-4 minutes and remove from heat. Serve in large bowls with fresh garlic bread and red table wine.