This was the featured dish after a one week labor strike I had with the kitchen.
I had heard that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and after a marathon of cooking & baking since November, I knew the only way I could stay so in love with my kitchen and cooking was to step away. I needed a vacation. A stay-away-from-the-kitchen vacation. A we-are-only-eating-out-or-I-refuse-to-ever-open-a-cupboard-again vacation.
And boy did it work. After a week of instant breakfast (cereal, toast), cheese & crackers (where I don’t even have to slice the cheese), eating take-out or at restaurants, I longed for the taste of something homemade. Something that wasn’t sitting under a heat-lamp to keep warm; something that was made just for my meal, something that wasn’t doused with calories & fat. I craved a meal made from love, with love, and for love.
Then Christmas morning rolled around and I found that my HoneyBee (Blake, that was my nickname for him waaaaay before your song) had honored me, our relationship, and our love by giving me a KitchenAid mixer (eeek!!!!!). Maybe he saw how big of a mess I became when I had to use 3 different electric tools to mix dough; maybe he was scared that my labor strike would be the end of his high-end meals; or maybe he noticed that this cooking adventure wasn’t just a phase & that I’ve grown from a novice to an experienced cook in a mere 6 months. Whatever the reason, he loves me & my cooking, and wants them both to stay 🙂
With my new toy in the kitchen, the labor strike ended in a flash and my first dish was inspired from a wonderful broth & stew we had for our anniversary dinner in August – Cioppino. After our Dungeness Crab feast on Christmas Eve, I had a few crabs left that needed to be eaten pronto. After searching for an authentic San Francisco version with Dungeness Crab, I ended up combing two recipes that formed into one spectacular dish.
Why do I call it spectacular, you ask? Because Mr. Honeybee told me so! He was so excited that he told me it was the best dish I ever made! EVER!! I was blushing at the table, let me tell ya! The broth turned out to be the most amazing broth I’ve ever had, most likely due to letting it develop for 3 hours before adding in the fish and serving. I highly recommend making this dish if you are a fish lover, love a good soup for a couple of nights, and don’t mind starting the broth ahead of time.
- 1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 jalapeños, seeded and minced
- 1 red bell peppers, finely chopped
- 1 large bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
- 1 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
- 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons water
- 1 (8-ounce) bottle clam broth
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 teaspoons dried basil
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2-3 cooked Dungeness crabs, about 2 pounds each
- 3/4 lb. Manila clams, scrubbed (or 1 dozen Littleneck clams)
- 1 lb. firm, white-fleshed fish fillets such as halibut, (I used Steelhead; you can use salmon too), skinned and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks
- 1 lb. large shrimp, shelled and deveined (I used frozen shrimp)
- 1 lb. mussels, scrubbed
- 3/4 pound sea scallops, halved vertically if large
Over medium-low heat melt butter in a large stockpot, add onions, garlic, peppers and bay leaf and cook, stirring occasionally, over moderately high heat until softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute longer. Add the chopped tomatoes and their juices and cook over moderately high heat until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Add the clam broth, chicken broth, water and spices; season lightly with salt and generously with pepper, and bring to a boil. Lower temp and simmer over low-moderate heat until the broth is reduced and developed, about 40 minutes to 3 hours. The more time it has the better the broth will taste.
Meanwhile, shell the crab if whole and remove the meat. Add the crabs and clams to the pot. Cover and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the clams begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the fish, shrimp, mussels and scallops to the pot, pushing them into the broth.
Stir occasionally until the clams and mussels are fully open and the fish, shrimp and scallops are cooked through, about 8 minutes longer.
Ladle the cioppino into deep bowls and serve with some crusty French bread for dipping in the broth. If you have leftovers, be sure to remove the clam & mussel shells from the stew prior to storing in the refrigerator.
Be prepared to be amazed!