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Cioppino, San Francisco's Signature Seafood Stew

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Cioppino is to American seafood stews what zuppa di pesce or bouillabaisse are to the Mediterranean. Hundreds of recipes exist for cioppino, and as a cook you do have some latitude in what you add. But you must have a combination of shrimp, fish and shellfish -- specifically the Dungeness crab -- as well as garlic and tomatoes, if you want to make an authentic cioppino. This recipe serves up to 12 as a light soup course, or up to 6 as a main course.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes


  • 6 finely chopped garlic cloves
  • 1 chopped medium yellow onion
  • 1/2 finely chopped bell pepper
  • 1/2 finely chopped celery stalk
  • 1 finely chopped hot chile, such as a serrano
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 T. tomato paste
  • 1 cup dry rose wine
  • 5 large tomatoes grated or 1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups seafood stock (chicken stock will do)
  • 1 T. crumbled dried oregano
  • 1 pound medium shrimp
  • 1 pound firm fish (halibut, sturgeon, swordfish, monkfish, tuna, tilefish) cut into large chunks
  • 1/2 pound (or more) Dungeness crab meat
  • 1-2 pounds various shellfish (Littleneck clams, mussels, oysters) in the shell
  • 2 T. finely chopped parsley, for garnish
  • 2 T. finely chopped basil, for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Scrub the shells of the clams, mussels, oysters well.

In a large, deep pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper and hot chile, mix to combine and cook until the onion is translucent. If you get a little browning, that's good, but the goal here is not to brown everything.

Add the garlic, some salt and dried oregano, then cook for another 2 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and mix well to combine. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook this until it turns the color of brick, about 4-5 minutes. Do not let it burn.

Turn the heat up to high, then add the wine. Mix it well and let the alcohol cook off for a minute or two. Then add the seafood stock and tomatoes. Bring it to a boil, then drop the heat to medium-low.

Let this simmer (if you use a thermometer look for about 190 degrees) for 20 minutes.

Now it's time for the seafood: Start with the fish, which will need the longest time. Let the fish cook for 5 minutes, then add the clams, mussels, etc. Cover the pot and let this cook for 3-5 minutes.

Uncover the pot -- the clams should have opened by now -- and add the shrimp. When the shrimp are mostly pink, about 2-3 minutes, add the Dungeness crab meat (which should already have been cooked).

Turn off the heat, adjust the seasoning (it may not need more salt because the broth from inside the clams is salty). Ladle the stew into deep bowls. Garnish with a mix of the parsley and basil and serve with -- what else? -- sourdough bread.

Oh, and one more thing: Give your guests a bowl to toss the shells in, and provide plenty of napkins.

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