Cioppino – San Francisco Fish Stew

Here is our stew, ready to eat.

I’ll admit, I’d never had this fish stew. Maybe that’s because I haven’t been to San Francisco before and we live far enough from the ocean that good fresh seafood is hard to come by. However, I do love fish and I was looking forward to this dish.

Cioppino is a stew that originated in San Francisco by Italian immigrants. The story is that the immigrant fishermen would use the catch of the day to make a stew while on the boats. As Italian restaurants started becoming popular, the stew became popular with everyone else. There are a ton of recipes online for this stew and, apparently, one of it’s best attributes is that is very versatile. We used the recipe provided by Luke but made a couple modifications based on what’s in our pantry and creativity. For example, some of the online recipes call for white wine, so we substituted this for the plain water.

This recipe comes to us from Luke Shaffer. Luke’ wife and Curt worked together at a place which shall no longer be named. It wasn’t a great experience for him but he met some really great people while he was there. Chef Luke is a professional Longhorn Fan who pays the bills by working as a top rated chef in Austin. You can see more of his creations at his blog LukeWhatsCooking.

To start with, we used a bag of Costco’s frozen seafood medley. This was Luke’s suggestion. Thaw the frozen seafood in the refrigerator so that it will cook evenly and not taste like frozen fish.

Here are the vegetables ready for chopping.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 Tablespoons of bacon fat
  • 1/2 cup carrot, small dice
  • 1/2 cup celery, small dice
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, small dice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, rough chop
  • 28oz can CENTO brand crushed tomato
  • 28oz can CENTO brand chef’s cut tomato
  • 8oz tomato puree
  • 28oz water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • Salt to taste
  • Crushed red pepper to taste
  • One bag of Costco Frozen Seafood Medley (2.5 pound bag)

Here is our seafood thawing while the soup simmers.

INSTRUCTIONS

The first part of this is to make the tomato soup that will be base of this recipe. Start by sweating the carrots, celery and onions in the bacon fat with a health pinch of salt and crushed red pepper.

When they are softened, add the garlic. When you can smell the garlic add the tomato paste. Cook this until it just begins to color and then add everything else – except for the seafood.

At this point we made a couple modifications. We used half of a large Costco can of tomatoes instead of the 2 cans listed above. Also, we didn’t want to water it down so we added white wine in place of the 28oz of water. Simmer this mixture for 2 hours. You can adjust the seasoning to taste. When it’s complete, puree with a stick blender OR in batches in the blender. (Luke’s WARNING: if using the blender, fill below half-way and make sure the top is sealed. It will swell and be HOT!!!!)

At this point you have a REALLY good tomato soup. You could stop right here and have a really good meal, but that wouldn’t be the point, would it?

At this point we used the seafood from Costco and mixed it all into the soup. If you have access to fresh seafood, you can use any or all of the following. Add seafood of your choice in the following order: fish, crab legs, clams/mussels, calamari, scallops, shrimp.

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Homemade chicken stock

This is a more complex chicken stock that came with the recipe I found for the chicken potpies in a pumpkin. It does turn out great, but I usually don’t have the time so I use what ever is available. Sometime, I use some stock that we have have in the freezer and other times I just use a good quality canned stock.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 6 sprigs fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried dill
  • 6 sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 leeks, washed, white and pale-green parts only, cut into 1/3
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed, cut into 1/3
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/3
  • 1 (4-pound) chicken, cut into 6 pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken wings
  • 1 1/2 pounds chicken backs
  • 2 (48-ounce) cans low-sodium chicken broth, about 12 cups
  • 6 cups cold water

Instructions

Place peppercorns, dill, parsley, bay leaves, leeks, carrots, celery, chicken, wings, and backs into a large stockpot. Add stock and 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a very gentle simmer, and cook for 45 minutes. Liquid should just bubble up to the surface. A skin will form on the surface of the liquid; skim this off with a slotted spoon, and discard. Repeat as needed. After 45 minutes, remove chicken from the pot, and set aside until it is cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, set the meat aside, and return the bones to the pot. Shred the chicken, and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use. Continue to simmer the stock, on the lowest heat possible, for 3 hours, skimming as needed. The chicken bones will begin to disintegrate. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a very large bowl. Discard the solids. Place the bowl in an ice bath, and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to airtight containers. Stock may be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 4 months. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight. If storing, leave fat layer intact to the seal the stock. Before using, remove the layer of fat that has collected on the surface. Yield: 5 quarts

Pate Brisee

This recipe is for our Chicken Potpie in a pumpkin. Although, I have an idea that I can use it in many other recipes.

If you google this recipe, you’ll find many variation, and to be honest, we tweak ours every year just to keep it interesting. This year is the first time I actually made the pate brisee. We’ve always used frozen pie crust in the past and it works just fine. This year we forgot to pick it up from the grocery store so I decided to go for it since we have all the ingredients and it doesn’t look too hard. I made it last night and kept it in the refrigerator overnight.

The simple recipe for the covering is as follows:

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup ice water

To start, make sure all your ingredients are cold. I even read online that you should rinse your hands in cold water. Put the flour, salt and thyme leaves in the bowl of a food processor. Add the pieces of butter, pulse for approximately 10 seconds, or just until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Use the feed tube to add the ice water, drop by drop, until the dough just holds together without being wet or sticky; do not process more than 30 seconds. Test the dough at this point by squeezing a small amount together. If it is crumbly, add a bit more water. Divide the dough in half, and shape into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic film, and refrigerate to chill for at least 1 hour. I prepared mine last night and it was very good today. If you have any dough left over, wrap it in 2 layers of plastic wrap and save it in the freezer to use it later.

If you are going to use this for a pie crust, substitute the 1 teaspoon of salt for 1 teaspoon of white sugar and leave out the thyme leaves.

Chicken Potpie in a Pumpkin

Here they are right out of the oven. I let them sit for about 10 minutes and then they are ready to eat.

Many years ago we saw Martha Stewart make this on FoodTV. Ever since then, we make this every year during the fall. Sometimes we make it more than once because we usually have extra filling so later we just have to fill the pumpkins. I love the flavors of fall and this one is a great exhibition of the best of fall produce.

We usually use homemade chicken stock in this but you can also use canned stock. Also, the original recipe calls for a pate brisee dough for the covering. We’ve always used frozen pie crust but this year we actually made the pate brisee. It was really easy and turned out great. Recipes with flour always freak me out so I have always avoided them but you really shouldn’t be afraid to make this simple dough.

This recipe is for 6 smallish pumpkins but we usually use 2 medium sized sweet pumpkins. This gives us enough left over to have it at least one more time. The left over filling can easily be stored in the freezer until you’re ready to use it.

Here are most of the ingredients that I was getting ready.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 (2-pound) sugar pumpkins, preferably short and squat
  • 5 tablespoons butter, plus 2 tablespoons melted
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pound pearl onions
  • 9 ounces potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 12 ounces button mushrooms, quartered if large
  • 8 ounces carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2 medium carrots)
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups Homemade Chicken Stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat (recipe follows), reduced by 1/3
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 1/2 cups poached or roasted chicken (from a 5-pound chicken)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 recipe Pate Brisee with Thyme, follow this link for recipe
  • 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream, for egg wash

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. While it’s heating, slice the tops off the pumpkins. (Placing a pumpkin on a towel will help keep it from rolling around.) Scoop out the seeds, and save them, they are great after you toast them! Using a pastry brush, brush insides of pumpkins with 2 tablespoons melted butter. Season insides of pumpkins with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Place pumpkins on a baking sheet; cover tightly with foil. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes.

This pumpkin is ready to be filled. It has already been seasoned and gone through the initial coking.

Prep the pearl onions: my first word of advice is not to worry about peeling them until after you prep them. Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Add pearl onions, and let simmer for 15 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold running water. Once you’ve let them cool down, the skin on the onion should come right off with no effort. Set the onions aside.

Melt 5 tablespoons butter in a large, high-sided skillet set over medium heat. Add potatoes and onions, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes begin to turn golden. Add mushrooms and carrots, and cook 4 to 5 minutes more. Add flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add reduced chicken stock and milk, and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick and bubbly, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in chicken, thyme, parsley, sage, remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper.
Remove from heat, and divide mixture among reserved pumpkin shells.

Roll each piece of pate brisee to an 1/8-inch thickness. Pull center of dough upward to form a pumpkin like stem. Place over the hollow of each filled pumpkin. Using the back of a small paring knife, mark the dough to simulate the lines of the pumpkin. Brush top of dough with egg wash. Bake until crust is golden, about 45 minutes.