Tensley syrah cioppino

by Heguiberto on March 25, 2011

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Last July when Steven’s parents were here for a couple of days, we took them sightseeing in Sausalito. We got hungry so they took us to an early dinner at Scoma’s, a beautiful seafood food restaurant nestled by the Bay with amazing views of San Francisco, Alcatraz, and the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges. Overall the food at Scoma’s was excellent. Steven ordered the cioppino, that classic fish stew that is de rigueur for any visit here. I think it was the most delicious cioppino that I’ve tried. Everything was super fresh and tasty.

Tensley syrah cioppino

Tensley syrah cioppino

Since I’ve wanted to try this at home. Cioppino is made with a lot of seafood, even if you only get a small morsel of each thing. The idea is that all the fishermen (and fisherwomen?) would get together at the end of the day, share whatever they caught, and make a large stew for all to enjoy. So this requires a party to be practical. Well, I like parties! I made it about a fortnight ago for my newly engaged friends, Jocelyn and Devin, the happily married JT, and my zinfandel-drinking buddy, Chris.

There are thousands of cioppino recipes online. Here’s one, another here, or here.

One thing to consider is what color wine you’re planning to use. Of course, whatever it is, it must be dry. After that the wine can have a huge impact on the appearance (and flavor) of the stew. If you go for red, the sauce will become dark with an almost chocolate color; if you use white, then the dish will be bright tomato red.

I chose red (you guessed that already, right?) Since we were having a big party, what could be better than a bold Tensely syrah right out of magnum? You can’t get bigger than that. The syrah made my sauce look like a Mexican mole, which was unexpected but awesome. We all enjoyed the richness of the look and the flavors.

I prepared the stew in a large pot that I placed directly on the table, nabemono-style. It was an unforgettable evening.

Tensley syrah cioppino

For the sauce:

4 shallots, minced
1 white onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large can tomatoes (28oz)
4 tbsp tomato paste
½ tsp dried basil
½ cup Italian parsley, chopped fine
1 cup clam juice
1½ cups vegetable or fish stock
¾ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp ground black pepper
1½ cups Tensley syrah or similar
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt to taste

For the seafood:

1 lb large shrimp/prawns, tails on, cleaned and deveined
1 to 2 lbs little neck clams (vongole), cleaned
1 lb cooked king crab leg, shells broken up (to facilitate easier eating at table)
1 lb boneless red snapper, cut into chunks
1lb sea scallop

Heat olive oil in a large pot then add onion and shallot. Sauté until translucent. Add garlic, bay leaf, peppers, basil and salt. Continue sautéing until aromatic. Stir in tomato paste followed by wine, clam juice and stock.

Cook uncovered for about 5-10 minutes until alcohol has evaporated and sauce has thickened a bit. Add canned tomato, parsley and simmer covered for about 25 minutes more, stirring every now and then. Sauce will be relatively thick at this point. Adjust flavors with more salt and/or pepper.

Increase temperature to high. Add crab legs and clams. Cover and let them steam in the sauce until clams begin to open. Remove clams to warm bowl. Discard the ones that don’t open. Sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over the shrimp, fish, and scallops. Add them to the pot. Cook for about 4-5 minutes (overcooking will make shrimp and scallops rubbery). Remove from heat. Return clams to pot and serve.

It’s traditional to have this with either sourdough bread or foccacia to sop up all the excellent sauce. Steven prepared a delicious foccacia to pair with the cioppino.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

LeQuan March 25, 2011 at 8:54 am

DROOL!!!!!! I am a huge seafood lover and your dish is making me weak in the knees. I’m not a huge fan of stews because all the ones I’ve seen are meat stews and I’m not a huge meat eater. This is one stew has captured my heart though. It looks amazingly delicious and sounds fantastic. Look at all that seafood you’ve put in there – lucky guests! A magnificent dish indeed. Thank you for sharing. I need to bookmark this one.
LeQuan recently posted..A Packed WeekendMy Profile

Heguiberto March 25, 2011 at 9:33 am


We love seafood too and this San Francisco style Bouillabaisse with the dark color lent by the Syrah wine tasted fabulous. The seafood was ultra fresh and cooked to perfection, no rubbery textures at all, just how it should be. What a treat! This was a surprisingly light meal and went perfectly well with Steven’s foccacia. Let us know how yours turns out when you do make it.

Shelley March 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm

That cioppino looks awesome! I love your addition of Syrah- most would have played it safe and gone with a white wine. Besides, anything that remotely resembles mole looks good to me!
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Tom @ Tall Clover Farm March 28, 2011 at 6:12 pm

So let me get this straight, you made cioppino and foccacia…a marriage made in culinary heaven. I can hear the sopping of sauce up here in Seattle, and yes I’m licking my chops.
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Devaki @ weavethousandflavors.com March 29, 2011 at 10:51 am

This superb!!!!!! I have gulped atleast twice while writing this 🙂 FANTASTIC at every level! I am a huge fan of fish stews so this right here is calling to me in the best way possible.

Also thanks for the sweet words you always leave me and the the fact that you tried and liked the Pasta alla Norma from the blog means everything!!! Thank you so and big hugs…

PS – Hope you are hanging in there for the very stressful time a.k.a kitchen renovation 🙂 Can’t wait to see the beautiful transformation.
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Stevie March 29, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Wish that you could have been here for the last blow-out dinner before total kitchen destruction!

Jocelyn Neudecker March 31, 2011 at 5:50 pm

YUMMY!!!!!! So happy that I was able to tast this wonderful treat. Even Devin, who claims not to like seafood, seriously could not stop talking about it for about two weeks. Thanks for sharing with us!

Jocelyn Martin April 2, 2012 at 9:28 am

We were there when you made this the first time and we’ve made it a few times since. It’s so wonderful and rich, but still healthy. Last night Devin and I made this for his mom and her husband – Joanie and Guido – and they were not surprised it was your recipe, as they have enjoyed your fine entertaining in the past! A big thanks and hugs and kisses from all of us!

Jocelyn Martin November 16, 2012 at 1:23 pm

We are going to make this recipe of yours for the 5th (or something like that) time tonight! Love it and crab season opened yesterday!

Devin November 16, 2012 at 2:02 pm

Can’t wait to make this again. I don’t like a lot of seafood but this is irresistible. Hope you guys are doing well!

Heguiberto November 23, 2012 at 3:01 pm

This is the time of the year nice crab and other seafood. I need to make this dish again soon, so yummy. We learned you guys moved! How’s the new pad? Missing you….

Heguiberto November 23, 2012 at 3:03 pm


We are doing good. Missing you. How’s the move? Adjusted to the new pad? Less commute?
I am glad this cioppino is helping you develop the taste for seafood 🙂
we love it!


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