Today was a Cioppino kind of day.
You may be wondering, "what is a kind of Cioppino day?" I wouldn't blame you; until today I didn't know either. Turns out, when it's been a not-so-good-but-not-quite-bad day and you want some comfort food, but not quite Mac 'n Cheese, then Cioppino is what you need. It has all the warmth of comfort food but isn't too rich, so you are left feeling a little light, and (dare I say?), hopeful. Because let's be honest, when you need creamy cheesy goodness, then there is no substitute. But when you're feeling just a little blue and heavy cheese will only leave you feeling guilty, then it's a Cioppino kind of day.
Before I get too much further, I must confess I had little to do with this production. Peter is a Cioppino master, and since I was having a not-so-good-but-not-quite-bad day, he was nice enough to take care of me. I think comfort food derives much of its comfort from someone else making it for you. There is something integral about having care being involved.
And so my wonderful husband once again stepped up and took care of me. I did help with some mindless tasks: deveining shrimp, debearding mussels, and scrubbing clams. I mean, I wasn't feeling so helpless, so I wanted to help him help me. But he really pulled this one off on his own. And it worked. The warm tomato sauce, slightly rich from the seafood that cooked in it and with a hint of spice, soothed. The garlic toast was just hearty enough to fill you up without weighing you down.
After dinner, I felt better. Comforted. I love that food can heal. And sharing that food with loved ones makes it that much more special. So, if it's been a not-so-good-but-not-quite-bad day, or if you're just in the mood to treat a loved one--or yourself!--then by all means, make it a Cioppino day.
Peter's original recipe calls for scallops, but we were feeling frugal this time around so we skipped them. If you feel splurgy, go for them, but if not, it's still delicious.
This recipe makes 4 hearty portions.
1/4 pound white fish (such as cod or halibut)
15 medium shrimp
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin
5 cloves garlic
1/2 tablespoon red pepper flakes (more or less, to taste)
6 oz white wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1-28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1-12 oz bottle clam juice
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
rustic loaf of bread
3 cloves garlic
extra virgin olive oil for finishing
Saute the fennel and onion in olive oil until tender and translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add chopped garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté another 4 minutes or so.
Deglaze pan with white wine and allow to reduce by half. Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and clam juice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for about an hour, until reduced by about half. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the clams to the pot, cooking for about 4-5 minutes until they open. Remove from pot into a medium bowl. Repeat with mussels, adding them to the clams.
Add the scallops, fish and shrimp and cook for 3-4 minutes, until just cooked through. Return the clams and mussels to the pot and allow them to come to temperature, about 2-3 minutes (do not boil!). Reseason with salt and pepper as needed.
Meanwhile, toast the bread. Rub with garlic cloves and drizzle with olive oil.
Serve the Cioppino in large bowls, finishing with parsley and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Serve with garlic bread.
A BONUS picture of Lucy, just because she is so darn cute. And she brings me comfort (when she's not being a spaz) so I guess it fits.