Monday, January 28, 2008

My version of cioppino...

It's a bit odd when you wake up with something very specific on the mind. On Sunday morning I woke up thinking about cioppino. I've no idea why. But even more weird was the fact that I had recorded a program called 'Tyler's Ultimate' that morning while I'd been fast asleep, and the subject matter had been cioppino. I couldn't quite work out what was going on. Had my brain logged into Food Network's airwaves in the early hours and downloaded some ideas from the ether? And then to top it off, my friend's Bro had made the same dish yesterday for a dining club up in Buffalo. I wonder what will be next? This a freaking me out.

In order to purge the demons from my head, I should just get on and cook it and stop thinking about voodoo stuff.
I admit I took some inspiration from Tyler in terms of specific ingredients and I strolled down to see my local fishboy who, as always, dropped whatever he was gutting at the time to say hello and shake my paw. (Ocean Fresh @ 3rd St and 7th Ave is still my favorite.)

"OK mate, I need something special - I'm making cioppino."
"What you need for that my friend?"
"Gimme some of those cockles, a handful of mussels, some of those big shrimp (king prawns) and a nice thick slab of halibut please."

He dealt me some fantastic fish. It's very important to develop a good relationship with your local fish man.

OK then, down to business: Here's how you construct your cioppino, a San Francisco classic apparently.

Gather together:

1 onion
1 stick celery
half a green capsicum
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
2 stalks of thyme, leaves only
1 can San Marzano tomatoes (in fact, any crushed tomatoes)
1 handful of cherry tomatoes
1/4 bottle of white wine

1 handful mussels
1 handful cockles/Cherrystone clams
1 handful 'Tiger' of jumbo shrimp/prawns
1/4 bottle of white wine
2 teaspoons each of minced parsley and dill

Big ocean-meat bit in the middle
2 large ingots of halibut/black cod/bluefish, skin removed if you like
1 tbsp butter
2 teaspoons each of minced parsley and dill


Right, get yer sauce on. Dribble some olive oil into a big saucepan/Dutch oven. Saute the first ingredients of the saucey stuff over a medium heat, until they soften, about 8-10 minutes. Add yer tinned tomatoes and add about 1/4 bottle of white wine. Bring to a boil and reduce by roughly half the volume over a low heat. Congratulate yourself with about 1/2 bottle of white wine in a big glass, and perhaps nip outside for a cheeky smoke - this reduction stage might take a while, roughly 20-30 minutes. Throw in a handful of cherry tomatoes while the sauce is still hot, and cook for about 10 minutes. You want the cherries to soften and only just develop fissures in their skin, so that they *POP!* in the mouth like little capsules of summery water when you eat them. Set the slightly cooled sauce aside.

Get yer shellfish cooked: Set a pan on the stove, at 'particle accelerator' heat. Toss in your cockles, mussles and whatever else you got from your friendly fishmonger. Shake it about a bit. Add the remaining 1/4 bottle of white wine (you did leave some, didn't you?) and add two stalks of thyme. Put a lid on the pan and shake while the wine boils and creates some steam. Count to 30. Check to see that the bivalves are wide open, and the shrimp/prawns are pink and sexy-looking. Don't overcook them. Strain all the shellfish, reserving cooking liquor, and set the shellfish aside. Shell the mussels and add them and the reserved cooking liquor to the tomato sauce (there shouldn't be much, about a half cup) and stir a bit.

Get yer haibut on: Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet, until it just about shimmers. Season those firm white fillets on one side and plop them, seasoned-side down, into the oil. Season the other side while they're cooking. When you see the fish change from translucent to opaque about halfway up the fillet, about 3 mins, guess what? It's time for the flip. Reduce the heat and cook the other side gently, for about 2 mins. Please don't overcook the halibut! Just as you can see the two opaque sides nearly meet in the middle, toss in 1 tbsp of butter. When this has melted, spoon it over the fish, like you were basting a joint in the oven. Baste for 30 seconds, then remove fillets to a plate to rest.

The butter should start to brown a bit, and it's at this point you want to throw the parsley and dill in. Cook for a few seconds, then toss all the shellfish in and shake them to coat.

To plate it up: In a deep bowl, ladle some of that delicious tomato sauce, plop a big chunk of halibut in the middle and spoon the shellfish and browned-herb butter around the fish and sauce. Serve with some rustic toasted bread and a really gutsy bottle of red of white.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Looks amazing brother!

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