We’re Cooking: Valentine’s Day Cioppino

Gary loves Cioppino…or really any fish stew with lots of shell-fish, mussels and a great broth. With yesterday being the day for love, I decided to try making one of my love’s favorites…but I was incredibly nervous as this was a first, and it was Valentine’s Day.

To my great delight, it was amazing…really amazing.
I personally don’t care for a really fishy, fishy broth.  This one had an appropriate amount of “fishyness” with the flavors from the fennel, tomatoes, garlic and herbs rounding out the overall taste and creating a warm and inviting bowl of love for my love.

We paired with a beautiful Fog Dog Rose from Freestone Vineyards near the Sonoma Coast.  My sister and I had visited Freestone a few years ago and the Fog Dog Rose was one of my favorites from the trip.  A sister winery to Joseph Phelps, this Rose of Pinot Noir is light and aromatic wine, served just slightly chilled (not completely cold, losing the flavors in the wine.)  Filled with lots of strawberry, grassy wild flowers, sweet spice and tea with hints of salty earthiness from the coastal breezes the grapes are privilege to.

Our extra special treat for the night, after we finished dinner some friends came by for dessert and bubbly.  They brought a toasty bottle of Dom Perignon for us to enjoy our chocolate covered strawberries with.

This bubbly holds the name of the monk who exclaimed “I am drinking stars” after his first taste of the luxurious beverage.  We are such lovers of bubbly, and this was such a treat, with nutty and toasty flavors with a hint of citrus, with a well rounded palate and subtle elegance.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Feel free to use your favorite sea food in this stew/soup; the ones I used were the prettiest I saw at Central Market on Monday.  I would keep the fish to a firm white fish; and the rock shrimp were so sweet and juicy, if you can find them I highly recommend.  We served four with leftovers…This will easily serve 6-8 people.

Olive or Grapeseed Oil
1 small yellow onion – chopped
2 shallots – chopped
4 cloves garlic – minced
1 carrot – chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 celery stalks (with leaves) – chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
2 large fennel bulbs – chopped
1/2 cup white wine
1 small can tomato sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon anchovy paste, or 3 anchovies
1  16 oz can diced Italian tomatoes
3 tablespoons chopped parsley – 2 tablespoons for the soup, 1 tablespoon for garnish
2 tablespoons chopped chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1 good pinch saffron threads
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 large bay leaf
1 teaspoon Herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon fresh cracked pepper
1/2 – 1 tablespoon salt (more to your taste if you use low sodium stock)
4 cups fish stock
2 cups vegetable stock
8 oz sea bass or halibut
1/2 pound rock shrimp
1/2 pound scallops
1/2 pound gulf shrimp – peeled and deveined
2 pounds mussels – cleaned and de-bearded
10 oz cooked crispy bacon, pancetta or chorizo (or all three) for garnish
Crusty sourdough bread for dipping

The soup can be made several hours prior to eating (and it actually helps marry the flavors together) and simmer on low heat until ready to serve; just wait until about 10 minutes prior to serving to add the fish.  The fish will cook in 5-10 minutes total.

In a large soup pot or dutch oven heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat.  Have all your veggies prepped prior to starting the soup.  Add all your veggies into the pot and cook over medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion and fennel begin to become slightly translucent.  Add the tomato sauce, paste, anchovy paste, and can of tomatoes.  Continue cooking.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add dried herbs and white wine.  Continue to cook.  Add stock and fresh herbs.  Bring to a boil and boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to a simmer until you are ready to add your fish.

When ready to add the fish bring the heat back up to medium and add the sea bass, or other white fish.  This will take the longest to cook.  After about 3 minutes stir in the shrimp and scallops. Then add the mussels and put a lid on the pot and allow to cook for about 5 minutes.  As soon as the mussel shells have opened the soup is ready.  Top each serving with a bit of extra parsley and a sprinkle of bacon, and serve with lots of hearty bread for dipping.



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