It's freezing here and I could really use a bowl of cioppino right about now.  The thermometer hasn't made it above 10 degrees for a couple of days and there's a foot of snow on the ground.

Right now as I look out the window, this is what I see…

See that little windowed building in the center?  That’s the chicken coop, and my poor feathered friends, while they’ve got some pretty nice digs, they’re just all in very bad moods right now.  They ‘re mostly disinclined to venture out of the coop if they see white stuff on the ground, which makes them very cranky.  They don’t take well to being cooped up and they don’t mind letting me know about it.

But back to the matter at hand, which is this delectable bowl of deliciousness we call cioppino and a New Year’s Eve tradition around here.  Not a bad way to end a year, right?  This is some good stuff and just what the doctor ordered on a frigid winter's evening.

If you’ve never had cioppino, which is also called zuppa di pesce, you’re in for a real treat.  The broth is slightly spicy with a nice balance of tomato and fish stock.  This year I added a little fennel pollen which made it even more super delicious.  Of course, you must serve this with fresh, warm bread to sop up all that delicious broth… I made focaccia, which was mighty perfect for dunking.

I never actually decide what fish I will use in my cioppino until I see what looks good that day.  This year I added halibut, bay scallops, king crab legs, little neck clams and shrimp.   But it doesn’t really matter – throw in whatever you like (leave out what you don’t).   It’s all good.

As you read this I am no longer looking out at that snowy Midwest landscape, but am en route to the Circle B Kitchen West on the Central Coast of California.  We’re making our annual pilgrimage to our little place there to re-connect with our West Coast roots and be with family and friends.  For the next month or so there will be no snow boots, gloves, hats or triple-layered coats, no frozen fingers and toes, but what there will be (besides a little warmth) is lots of fresh seafood, and, hopefully, another bowl of cioppino.  


Click here for a printable recipe

2 medium onions, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 small stalks celery, diced

½ yellow bell pepper, diced

1 tsp dried oregano

2 bay leaves

½ tsp crushed red pepper

2 lg cans tomatoes, pureed

1 ½ cups fish stock or clam juice

2 cups white wine

2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

¼ cup chopped parsley

1 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano

½ tsp fennel pollen (optional)

Any combination of seafood you like (peeled and deveined shrimp, crab or crab legs, littleneck clams or clam meat, bay scallops, halibut, mussels)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Fresh bread for serving

In a large, heavy stock pot or dutch oven, sauté the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes.  Add the celery and yellow pepper and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.  Add the oregano and crushed red pepper, and fennel pollen, if using, and sauté until fragrant.  Add the pureed tomatoes, fish stock and wine.  Add in the fresh parsley (reserve some for serving) and oregano.  Season with salt and pepper and let simmer for at least 30 minutes. 

If using crab meat and/or clam meat, add them right into the simmering broth.  If using crab, clams or mussels in the shell, cook as follows.

Break or cut the crab legs, if using, into 4-inch pieces and set aside.

Heat a large skillet and add the olive oil.  Add the minced garlic and sauté briefly.  Add the clams and mussels, a little water, cover the pan, and let them steam until they open, about 6-8 minutes.  Discard any that do not open.  Remove from the pan and place in the broth.  Keep the broth from cooking in the skillet. 

Add a ladle or two of the sauce to the skillet and add the halibut to the pan, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add the shrimp and scallops to the pan, cover, and let these steam another 5 minutes.  Turn the heat off, add the crab legs, cover the pan and let sit until ready to serve.

Place the seafood in a large soup tureen or serving bowl and pour the sauce over the top.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the reserved chopped parsley.  Serve with fresh bread for dipping in the sauce and grated parmesan cheese, if desired.