Seafood Delight: How to Make Cioppino

Seafood Delight:
How to Make Cioppino

This lesson involves making the classic dish of cioppino, a Portuguese seafood stew that made its way all the way to San Francisco and became what it is today. This lesson’s version involves both Atlantic and Pacific seafood. Note that the halibut and branzino used in the video lesson were prepared for cooking ahead of time.


Making the Base Sauce
Make the base sauce before working with the seafood. Break down the leek. In a medium pot, heat a small amount of oil and add the leek pieces before it gets too hot. Once you hear a sizzling sound, add diced onions, diced fennel, and diced green peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Let this mixture cook on medium heat. The longer and more slowly it cooks, the more flavor will develop. An hour is usually enough time from start to finish.

Preparing the Seafood
Following the techniques from the video lesson, peel and devein the shrimp. Inspect the mussels next, keeping in mind that any shellfish that does not close after squeezing is mostly likely dead and should be discarded. If a shellfish remains closed after cooking, it was already dead and should be discarded. Cracked shellfish should also be discarded. Remove any beard that may be attached to the mussels.

Next, inspect the clams. Make sure none of them are broken. All of the clams should be closed. Discard any that you reject. Rinse the clams in cold water.

Clean off a cutting board. Start on the calamari next. Make sure everything has been removed from the inside of the calamari. Cut the calamari legs into halves or thirds for ease of handling. Also prepare and position the branzino and halibut for cooking. Refer to Lesson 9 for guidance on breaking down a round fish and Lesson 20 for guidance on breaking down a flat fish.

Making the Base Sauce, Part 2
The next step for the base sauce is to add garlic. Flatten a large piece by hand and place it in the sauce whole. Cook it for a minute. Add bay leaves and thyme, followed by hand-crushed tomatoes. Bring it up to temperature. There should be bubbles in the middle. Add salt and pepper, and then add chicken stock. Bring the mixture back up to a boil. Periodically check on and stir the sauce throughout the rest of the preparation process.

Preparing the Scallops
The next part of the recipe is seasoning the seafood. Set up a seasoning rack with a tray underneath. Don’t season the show side of the scallops, but do season the other side with salt and white pepper. Heat a pan with grapeseed oil.

Prepare another rack with a pan underneath for storing the seafood after cooking.

Put the scallops in the pan with the heated grapeseed oil. Cook them for 10 seconds, then tilt the pan toward yourself, creating a pool of fat in the back of the pan. Baste the scallops with that. Add a small pat of butter and let it melt. The goal is to use the milk solids to help brown the outside of the scallops.

After another 20 seconds or so, check the other side of the scallops, using a fish spatula. Start basting this side for 20 seconds. Transfer the cooked scallops to the rack.

Preparing the Halibut
Replace the pan you cooked the scallops in with a fresh one if necessary. Season the top and the bottom of the halibut with salt and white pepper. Heat a small amount of oil. While you wait for it to heat, give the base sauce a stir and turn the heat down to medium. You are looking for it to reach a simmering level at this point.

Once the pan is very hot, add the halibut. Wait 10 seconds and move the pan. Nothing should stick. After 15 more seconds, move the halibut to the top of the pan, then tilt it back and use the liquid to baste. After 35 seconds, add a small amount of butter. Turn the heat down, let the butter melt, and baste again. Flip the fish over and repeat the basting process for 30 seconds. Once they are ready, turn the heat off and remove them, placing them on the storage rack. The goal is to cook them halfway through in the pan and finish them in the stew.

Preparing the Branzino
Replace the cooking pan once more if necessary. Season the branzino with salt and white pepper. Heat the oil in the pan.

Check on the sauce. If it has reduced too much, you can add a small amount of water.

When the pan is smoking, add the fish. It will immediately curl up. Use a fish spatula to push it down and flatten it. Hold it for a few seconds. Do this to each piece. After 10 more seconds, shake the pan to make sure nothing is stuck. Add butter. You will only cook this fish on one side. The goal is a golden brown bottom.

Before moving to the next step, add the potatoes to the base sauce. Make sure they are submerged in liquid. Season with ample amounts of salt.

Preparing the Mussels and Clams
To prepare the shellfish, you will need a 10-inch pan and an 8-inch pan to place over the larger pan. This will be used to create steam.

Heat the 10-‑inch pan, add oil, and sweat diced onions. Add crushed garlic. Wait until the pan becomes silent; this means that the water has been removed from the onions. After about 1.5 minutes, add the mussels. Cover with the 8-inch pan and pour white wine over it. You can then remove the 8-inch pan.

As the mussels start to open up, remove them from the pan and place them on the rack alongside the scallops. Pour juice on the mussels to help them open up if necessary. Once all the mussels are done, add the liquid from the pan to the sauce base.

Add oil, diced onions, and crushed garlic to the same pan. Repeat the mussel-‑cooking process to cook the clams. The clams have thicker shells, so they will take a longer time to cook. Remove them as soon as they open up. Once again, add the liquid from the pan to the base.

Preparing the Shrimp and Calamari
Heat a pan again, adding oil. Add the shrimp. Season with salt and pepper. Use a fish spatula to turn and sauté the shrimp. Crush a garlic clove and add it. Turn off the heat. Leave them in the pan to finish cooking.

Check on the base to see how close it is to being ready. Test a potato by cutting it. Continue cooking if necessary.

Final Steps and Plating
If desired, you can serve this dish with grilled bread. The video lesson uses a sliced baguette. Place it on the grill at an angle. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Turn it once it is nicely toasted and season the other side. Turn off the grill once the bread is done and set the bread aside.

Once the potatoes are almost ready, add in the clams and mussels. Add the juice captured at the bottom of the storage tray as well. Next, add the shrimp. Stir the mixture gently.

Add more butter to the mixture, followed by the calamari. Stir it together. Wait until the butter melts and the calamari finishes cooking all the way through. The protein of the calamari will start to tighten up when it is almost ready.

When you are ready to plate, try to capture as much of every ingredient as you can into a bowl. Standing mussels and clams up along the sides of the bowl will give you more room. On top, add a piece of halibut and branzino as well as scallops. Garnish with parsley and add a bit more sauce. Serve with the grilled bread.

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