Simple Cioppino

Simmer this fragrant seafood soup for dinner and discover that a simple cioppino is perfect for chilly winter nights.

On a recent food-centric trip to Prince Edward Island, I found myself on a fascinating aquaculture tour with a group of Top Chefs and local food advocates for Canada’s Food Island.

It was a warm September day, and the sea and sky were so blue, it was difficult to tell where the two met. Out on the waters of New London Bay, drifting in a mussel boat,  I watch as a line was hoisted out of the water, with thousands of blue mussels determinedly clutching their ‘socks’.

Talk about a food memory! This lifelong landlubber was impressed.

One of my biggest takeaways from touring a maritime aqua farm was that yes, local mussels are available to us year round, but the best time to enjoy them is in winter, when the water is the coldest and the shellfish are at their plumpest. (The same goes for oysters and clams, by the way.)

Of course there’s more to it than that, and you can google ‘glycogen’ and geek out about shellfish cycles if you like, but I just stored that fun fact away, making a mental note to slurp these ocean delights in February. Well now here we are; it’s both soup weather and shellfish season, and I’ve been simmering seafood chioppino every chance I can get.

The rustic cioppino originated in San Francisco, where local Italian and Portuguese fisherman cobbled together a hearty soup with the day’s catch. It’s designed to be a versatile dish, starting with a fragrant wine and tomato base – and finished with any and all seafood you desire.

Cioppino is pronounced ‘Cho-PIno’ (and occasionally spelled ‘choppino’) but no matter how you say it, know that this red chowder is fast, fuss-free and absolutely delicious.

The soup base comes together quickly, and if you like to prep meals in advance, know that you can store the base in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Then simply reheat the soup, pile your seafood on top, steam it, season and serve.

Remember, when you are buying mussels, they should smell fresh, like the sea, without a whiff of stink. I store them in the fridge, covered with a damp dish towel until I am ready to cook the mussels, 2-3 days maximum. As with all seafood, the fresher they are the better.

Discard any mussels that are broken, cracked or wide open prior to cooking, as these are likely dead or damaged. After cooking, toss any mussels that didn’t open.

With Prince Edward Island blue mussels, Digby scallops and locally caught haddock, this pot of cioppino is a luxurious celebration of East Coast seafood. Ladling it in to deep bowls, shells and all, never fails to give me a thrill. This! This is what eating local means to me now that I live 20 minutes from the Atlantic.

Be sure to serve the cioppino with crusty sourdough bread and a squeeze of lemon.  I also recommend a bottle of Pinot Noir because these winters are long and cold. Enjoy!

Simple Cioppino

A luxurious celebration of seafood, this rustic tomato-based soup is perfect for a cold winter night.
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Course: Soups & Stews
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Gluten-free
Essential Ingredient: Seafood
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 338kcal
Author: Aimee

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 sweet bell pepper diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh basil chopped or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup red wine
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 cup clam broth
  • 2 cups fish stock
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes any kind will do
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 pounds fresh mussels
  • 1 pound whole peeled raw shrimp
  • 8-10 fresh scallops small
  • 1 pound fresh white fish such as haddock
  • fresh parsley to garnish
  • lemon wedges to serve

Instructions

This recipe makes a large pot of soup. You may want to half it for a family of four.

  • Heat oil in an 8-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Tumble in the bell pepper and the garlic; cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 3 more minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste, basil and oregano and cook for 1 minute. Stir constantly so that the paste cooks slightly but doesn't burn. Deglaze the pot with the wine, scraping the bottom and mixing everything thoroughly.
  • Pour in the tomato juice, clam broth, fish stock, tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for about 10 minutes. This is your cioppino base; this first portion of the recipe can be prepared in advance if needed.
  • Add mussels to the pot, give them a stir and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook until they open, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the lid and pile the haddock, shrimp and scallops on top of the mussels. Cover again and cook until the seafood is just cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Stir once, very gently. The shrimp should turn slightly pink and the fish will turn white. Stir the cioppino gently, and season with salt and pepper, tasting the broth as you go.
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with fresh parsley or basil. Serve with a wedge of lemon and crusty bread.

Nutrition

Calories: 338kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 257mg | Sodium: 1847mg | Potassium: 993mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 23.1% | Vitamin C: 60.7% | Calcium: 19.5% | Iron: 34%

 

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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