When my husband and I first started dating, within one of our first conversations, he told me that he didn’t eat fish. Period. I would be lying if I said a this-is-never-going-to-work thought didn’t cross my mind. After all, fish is the main protein in my diet! And I’m a cook! What are we going to eat at dinnertime?! But that thought quickly vanished within the same conversation hearing about what he did like to eat and realizing he had a pretty good palette. Plus, he’s really cute.
Since then and many, many meals later, Rob’s taste for food has drastically grown and he’s even asking for things he originally hated (i.e. beets). He’s taken a liking to fish (yay!) but he’s still pretty adamant about not eating shellfish (being a Marine Science major, he says he knows too much about them to eat them. I absolutely love shellfish, so I don’t ask what he knows). So as seen in past posts, whenever I decide to indulge in Oregon’s finest shellfish, I usually do so when Rob is out flying that little orange helicopter over volatile seas.
As mentioned in my past posting, I passed on cooking my Cioppino last Friday due to the prior crazy work week. But knowing this week was going to be another hectic ride (we just finished parent conferences), I knew I couldn’t put off my Cioppino yet again.
So on Saturday, after locking ourselves out of the house, waiting for the locksmith (at least it was sunny out!), visiting the pet adoption agency to see if we could add a 4-legged member to our little family (sadly, our doggie bed still lays cold in the garage), Rob and I made our way to Charleston to buy some of Oregon Coast’s finest: fish.
While our fish monger piled pounds of steamer clams and medium-sized tiger shrimp onto the scales, I could sense Rob’s jaw start to tense. Shellfish. Eww. Because I was making a “white” Cioppino with veal and pork sausage rather than the standard chorizo, I opted out of the muscles – not that it made Rob feel any better about the meal he was about to endure. The only white fish available that day was some beautiful Dover Sole, which happens to be Rob’s favorite, so despite its delicateness we dared it to stand up to the bold flavors, and planned for its accompanying role in the stew.
Then it was on to cooking. Cioppino is not a hard dish to make, it just has a lot of ingredients which can make it seem overwhelming. I am usually pretty good with my mise en place, so after the chopping and set up, bringing everything together as a piece of cake (or a bowl of stew!)
We shared the Cioppino with some close friends, and with a dollop of Lemon Aioli and a chunk of artisan crusty bread, we communed with gobbling and slurping and clanking clam shells into the shell bowl. Except for the occasional shrimp sneaking its way over to my dish, Rob ate, and thoroughly enjoyed the light, fresh, homey, and slightly spicy fish stew. The dinner smelled amazing while cooking, tasted amazing while eating, and we were all truly amazed at anti-shellfish boy scarfing it down.
Please don’t be intimidated by the ingredients here; Cioppino really is as easy (if not easier!) to make as most meat stews, and so, so satisfying. If you can’t find veal and pork sausage, use whatever hot, medium, or mild meat combination you love. Just adjust your salt and pepper flake seasoning. If I can get Rob to eat fish stew, then I’m sure you’ll love it!
Cioppino (serves about 6 with leftovers)
- 2 lbs fresh shrimp
- 1 1/2 lbs steamer or razor clams
- 2 lbs any mild white fish (Dover Sole, Halibut, Rockfish, even Tilapia will work here)
- 4 c fish stock (low sodium)
- 2 c dry white wine (Pinot Gris works well)
- 1 lb veal and pork sausage (or any sausage of your choice)
- 2 c whole tomatoes, strained and hand-crushed
- 1/2 large white onion, finely diced
- 1 medium fennel bulb, finely diced
- 5 large stalks celery, sliced
- 1 leek, sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (or more or less depending on how spicy you like it)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- chopped Italian parsley, for garnish
- Lemon Aioli, recipe follows
Lemon Aioli (makes about 2 cups)
- 2 c good quality mayo (or make it yourself!)
- zest and juice of one large lemon
- 5ish drops of Tabasco sauce
- a pinch of s&p
Start browning the sliced, or unencased sausage in the olive oil in a large dutch oven over med-high heat. Once browned, remove from pot and set aside. Add the onion, leek, fennel, and celery, some s&p , and saute until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, and then deglaze with the white wine, scraping the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. After about 3-5 minutes, add in the tomatoes, the browned sausage, and fish stock. Let come to a boil. Once boiling, add the crushed red pepper and bay leaves, and bring down to a simmer. Simmer covered for about 30-45 minutes.
While stew is simmering, clean the shellfish – peel and devein the shrimp, and gently scrub the clams. If any clams are broken or open, discard (unless it is just slightly open – then hold the clam firmly between your thumb and first and middle finger and tap the clam on the counter top. If the clam closes, it is still alive and able to be cooked and eaten. If it does not close, then discard). Also, cut the white fish of choice into large chunks, similar to the size you would use to make fish and chips.
Add the fish and shellfish to the pot, cover, and check after 5 minutes. NOTE: if using a heartier white fish, like Halibut, add the white fish first to cook for a few minutes before adding the shellfish. When the clams have opened and the shrimp are pink and opaque, the stew is ready to serve.
Serve in big soup bowls, garnish with parsley, and a large dollop of Lemon Aioli.
(Sorry about the lack of pictures; we got carried away with the cooking… and the eating!)