“In the hands of an able cook, fish can become an inexhaustible source of perpetual delight.” – Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
Cioppiono is a familiar stew if you live on the Pacific Ocean, so I’ve definitely eaten my fair share. It’s a little intimidating to spend so much money on seafood if you’re making it for the first time, but this recipe is ridiculously simple and forgiving, easy to customize to your individual preferences, and my roommates claimed it was “marvelous.”
Sunset Cookbook Classics: 8 Cookbooks in 1 Volume, Sunset Publishing Co. (2000)
Sunset Cookbook Classics is a heavy book in an era when you can quickly search for any recipe on your phone. But it combines eight of Sunset Magazine‘s most popular cookbooks, and it has something for everyone: appetizers, cookies, canning and preserving, vegetarian, poultry, pasta, Italian and wok cooking.
I found the recipe for cioppino in the Italian section of the book, although the soup was developed in San Francisco in the late 1800’s by Italian-American immigrants. It’s based on a classic Tuscan soup called cacciucco, which is made with Mediterranean fish and less tomato flavor. Cooks would rely on the “catch of the day” from local fishermen, so cioppino is made with fish that are native to the Pacific Ocean, like Dungeness crab.
Modifications, Testing and Recommendations: Make sure to use wild-caught fish and seafood – wild fish have a more diverse diet than farmed fish, which are fed a processed high-fat feed to get them as big as possible. Unfortunately that’s balanced by sacrificing flavor. For my friends who grew up in Ballard, the city’s epicenter of the fishing and seafaring industry, using farmed fish is tantamount to treason – especially if members of their immediate family are commercial fishermen! We only have two rules in our kitchen: use wild-caught fish and free-range eggs only (as opposed to cage-free).
Use whatever seafood is fresh and available near you. I couldn’t find whole Dungeness crabs so I substituted crab meat instead, which is probably good because we also don’t have crab forks. Make sure you have plenty of bread because we were eating leftovers all weekend and one loaf was not enough! To reheat refrigerated soup, warm it in a small saucepan on the stove.