Thursday, January 27, 2011


With all the availability of fresh seafood in Puerto Penasco, what could be better for dinner than a big pot of Cioppino? Head on down to the fish market in Old Port and grab whatever suits your fancy.

Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in the dish's place of origin (San Francisco) is typically a combination of dungeness crab, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish. The seafood is then combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce, and served with toasted bread, either sourdough or baguette.

The recipe below is just a guide to start you on your way. No crab available? No problem, just substitute another shellfish. No clams? Try mussels. Add some red snapper, sea bass, octopus, squid, whatever is fresh and available. The point is to use what you like, the more variety the better.

With all that unshelled seafood and crab legs to crack it's awfully messy to eat, which is half the fun, so be sure to have lots of napkins and maybe some bibs on hand!

Of course you can take the lazy way out and use seafood that's already shelled, but what's the fun of that?

Serves 6 generously

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Cup good red wine like Zinfandel, cabernet or a good chianti
  • a 28-to 32-ounce can whole tomatoes including juice, puréed coarse
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 pounds crab legs (or whole hard shelled crabs)
  • 12 small hard-shelled clams, scrubbed well
  • 1/2 pound medium shrimp, shelled, leaving tails and first joint intact
  • 1/2 pound sea scallops
  • 1 pound scrod or other white fish fillet, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley leaves

In a heavy kettle (at least 5 quarts) cook garlic in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened. Add pepper flakes and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until softened. Add vinegar and boil until evaporated. Add wine, oregano, and bay leaf and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in tomato purée and tomato paste and bring to a boil.

Add crabs/crab legs and clams (or other shellfish) and simmer, covered, 15 to 20 minutes, checking often and transferring clams as they open with tongs to a bowl (discard unopened ones).

Remove crab legs and set aside. If using whole crabs, transfer crabs with tongs to a cutting board and remove top shells, adding any crab liquid to soup. Halve or quarter crabs (depending on size) and reserve, with any additional liquid, in a bowl.

Add shrimp, scallops, and fish to soup and simmer, covered, 5 minutes, or until seafood is just cooked through. Stir in gently crabs, their liquid, and clams and sprinkle with parsley.

Feel free to add some jalapeno peppers for extra bite, if you like. And serve with plenty of good Mexican rolls to sop up the juice. This is one dinner where you are not required to eat daintily, so take advantage of it!

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, by Kelly Sue DeConnick)

Buen provecho!

If you have a favorite recipe for a Mexican or Mexican-inspired dish, I'd love to add it to our recipe box! email (and put "recipe" in the subject box so I'll know what it's about)
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