Cioppino is an iconic Italian-style fish stew associated with San Fransisco. It can be as elaborate as you like but this easy make-ahead version is a terrific meal for the busy holiday season.
The cioppino could also be finished on the stove rather than the oven. Though be careful, the direct heat on the bottom of the pot will require you to stir the stew gently several times. This may cause the chunks of fish to break apart.
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion (peeled and diced)
- 1 thinly sliced fennel bulb (about 1 cup)
- 1 large leek (white and light green parts halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons, rinsed)
- 1 red bell pepper (seeded and diced)
- 4 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
- 2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- kosher salt and ground black pepper (as needed for seasoning)
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 2 cup clam juice
- 2 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1–2 teaspoon red Tabasco sauce (to taste)
- 2 pound local thick-fleshed skinless fresh raw fish (such as a mixture of mahi mahi, salmon, halibut, and cod), cut into 2‑inch chunks
- 1 pound fresh raw shrimp (peeled and deveined)
- 1 pound bay scallops, or squid cut into 1‑inch rings
- 1 pound fresh raw clams and/or mussels (in shell) optional
- 6–8 steamed, cracked king crab legs (1 per person) optional
- chopped parsley (to taste)
- grated Parmesan cheese (as needed for serving) optional
- crusty bread (as needed)
In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onions, fennel, leeks and red bell pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 4–5 minutes. Add the garlic, bay leaves, oregano, red pepper flakes and thyme, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well and saute until the mixture becomes fragrant, about 2–3 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir to combine. When the tomato paste starts sticking to the pot, pour in the white wine, scraping to incorporate the stuck bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil and cook until the wine is reduced by half.
Add the clam juice, broth, and tomatoes, and stir well. Bring to a boil; lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper, Tabasco sauce, and red wine vinegar. Remove from heat and cool completely. You can either do this one or two nights before you plan to serve the cioppino; refrigerate base until needed.
The morning of or the night before you plan to serve the cioppino, place the fish, shrimp, and scallops and/or squid into a large ovenproof Dutch oven. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and pour the cooled base on top, fully submerging the seafood in the liquid. Top with some additional water or broth if necessary. Refrigerate until ready to proceed.
To serve, preheat the oven to 400° and bring the refrigerated cioppino to room temperature. Bake with the lid on for about 45 minutes, until fish, is cooked through and broth is hot. Remove the lid, add clams or mussels (if using). Replace the lid and cook for 5–10 more minutes until the clams and/or mussels (if using) have opened (discard any that don’t open).
Garnish with chopped parsley and serve with Parmesan cheese (if using), cracked crab legs (if using), and crusty bread.