My husband and I never can quite agree about what type of fish should go into cioppino. He says it must be salmon for the rich flavors it imparts in the broth. He also has a memory association from the first time he tasted it at the hands of his crazy Italian captain on the fishing boat he worked on one summer in Alaska (as well as the money he made that summer!) Hands down for me I will put cod in mine every time. I love it because its lean and the neutral flesh flavor takes on rather than over powers the flavor of the broth.
Cioppino has its origins with the Italian immigrants who lived in San Francisco in the late 1800’s. They are the ones credited for creating this versatile and delicious fish stew that really has no rules for which type you put into it. History says when fisherman came back empty handed they would walk around with a pot to the other fisherman asking them to chip in what they could to make it. For that reason, my recipe here should only be a guideline and I encourage you to change up your seafood each time you make it.
The broth is the best part! You can make it and use it right away, or stash it in the refrigerator for one of those nights when you do not have the time or the energy to start from scratch and want something on the table in a hurry. By hurry I mean 30 minutes or so. A smidge of fennel seed and grated orange zest are what make the broth flavored with onion, garlic a big splash of white wine and diced tomatoes stand out.
No cioppino should rightly be served without warm or toasted slices of baguette or the sourdough loaf you cannot live without. It works like a sponge to soak up every last bit of the wonderful broth.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion (1 medium onion)
- 2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 medium cloves)
- 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 cup white wine
- 28 ounces chopped tomatoes (and juice)
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth or water or a combination of both
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
- 1-1/2 pounds cod, halibut or salmon fillet or a combination, skin removed and cut into approximately 3-inch chunks
- 1-pound medium size prawns, peeled and deveined
- 1-pound manila clams
- In a large straight sided skillet (with a lid) or a low sided stockpot (with a lid) heat olive oil over medium heat; add onions. Cook until lightly browned only stirring once or twice to get browning, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, fennel and pepper flakes and cook and stir 30 seconds. Add wine and bring to a simmer; add tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, salt and pepper to taste; cover and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors. Stir in orange zest and taste for seasoning for salt and pepper. Remove bay leaf (broth can be made to this point, cooled and stored covered in the refrigerator several days.)
- To cook seafood, add clams to the hot broth, cover and cook over medium heat just until clams shell open, about 3 to 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon or tongs, remove clams and keep warm. Add cod and prawns to broth, cover and simmer just until opaque and cooked through, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon or tongs divide seafood and cooked clams into four bowls, then spoon or pour broth over. Serve right away.