Every year I have a Valentine’s Day party for my girlfriends. We play board games, I give them silly little gifts, we eat great food (in my opinion!), gossip, and inevitably drink too much wine. We’ve done this so many times we even had a photo book printed themed for photos with your best friends. It was quite a nice experience having it around as we browse through all the memories of the past years spending the day together. After pouring through my cookbooks, I was at a loss as to what to wow them with this year. So I e-mailed my friend Jane for advice. Her immediate response was “Cioppino!”
If any of you are scratching your heads saying “what’s Cioppino?,” here is the definition from Wikipedia – Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco. It is considered an Italian-American dish, and is related to various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine. Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in the dish’s place of origin is typically a combination of Dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish. The seafood is then combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce, and served with toasted bread, either sourdough or baguette. San Francisco and I had a passionate love affair a few years ago, so I decided that this would be a fantastic entrée to share with the girls.
If you Google “Cioppino recipe”, there are approximately 362,000 hits. What’s a foodie to do? Create your own signature recipe, that’s what! This dish would also work great if you want to just stay at home and cook for your sweetheart. I personally dislike going to restaurants to celebrate holidays – they are generally crowded, overpriced and not as intimate as a special meal at home. Hope you enjoy!
VALENTINE’S DAY CIOPPINO
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups dry wine, red or white, separated
2 6.5 ounce cans of chopped clams with their juices
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary (chopped)
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano, or 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more to taste)
Pinch of allspice (optional)
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
2 cups water
1 cup wine
1 dozen cherrystone clams, scrubbed
½ pound shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 pound of firm flesh fish, such as cod, halibut or sea bass
1 pound crabmeat
Heat oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, fennel, celery, parsley and garlic; sauté until tender. Add tomatoes with their juices and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 1 cup of wine, clams with their juices, rosemary, thyme, oregano, bay leaves, red pepper, allspice and cinnamon. Simmer 30 minutes.
Add water, wine and cherrystones. Simmer until the clams open, approximately 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Add crabmeat and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the fish and shrimp and simmer until everything is cooked through. Ladle into large bowls and serve with a crusty baguette and a salad. Chocolate fondue with strawberries, bananas and cut-up, storebought poundcake can be a fun dessert (check TJ Maxx, Ross or Marshalls’s for a small, inexpensive fondue pot).
Don’t be afraid to play around with the ingredients. You can use mussels if you prefer them, or add some crab legs for taste and decoration. Onion can be substituted for the fennel. As my father always says “a recipe is just a guide”.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!