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.
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.
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.