Friday, November 26, 2010

Seafood Cioppino

I'm a huge fan of bouillabaisse. The intoxicating combination of fresh shellfish in a flavourful broth with a hint of pernod, is a beautiful thing. I've been fortunate enough to have enjoyed bouillabaise in Marseille, the reputed home of the dish, but the best was at Beach Bistro on Anna Maria Island in Florida. I spoke with one of the sous chefs a previous time I was there, and was told the secret to their recipe — homemade fish stock that takes 3 days to prepare! That's love. Oh yes, plus the freshest assortment of seafood you can imagine. I still order it every time I go there. Not all of us can pick up and head off to Anna Maria at the drop of a sunhat, but this recipe for Cioppino is a delicious and satisfying shellfish stew that is quick and simple to make. Don't be daunted by the list of ingredients, it all gets thrown into one pot and left to do its magic.

Enjoying a traditional Bouillabaise in Marseilles

Seafood Cioppino
Serves 6 as a main course

1 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 Bay leaves
8 anchovies
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp tabasco
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 cup red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed (or 1 tsp. Pernod)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 28oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 cup water
2 6.5oz. cans of clams, with juices
6 crab claws
1 lb mussels
1 lb cod or halibut, cut into 1' chunks
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 cups whole fresh basil
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and add anchovies, onions, garlic, bay leaves, oregano and tabasco; cook until onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and cook a minute more. 

Whisk together wine and tomato paste in a small bowl and add to onion mixture. Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, water, fennel seeds, worcestershire and vinegar and let simmer 30 minutes. 

Stir in the clams and their juices; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the mussels and crab claws, cover the pan and let simmer 5 minutes. Add the fish and shrimp and simmer until they are cooked through, about 5 minutes more. 

Discard any unopened mussels. Stir in the basil leaves just before serving.