Sunday, December 26, 2010

Cioppino, Ciupin, Cacciucco, or Buridda?!?

For some reason, there is a debate as to whether or not cioppino is really an Italian dish. General foodie-consensus seems to be that cioppino, as we know it here, is really an Italian-American creation that became an iconic San Franciscan dish...and has no roots in any regional Italian dishes.

I read that it could be 'cioppino' is simply an American bastardization of 'ciupin' which, in turn, was simply the truncation of the Italian zuppina, or “little soup.” But looking closer at the Genovese ciupin recipe, it relies heavily on bony fish and does not include the variety of seafood found in cioppino. A soup that is closer to cioppino might be cacciucco alla Livorno or buridda from Liguria.

But having lived, worked, and cooked in Italy, whatever you want to call it - cioppino, ciupin, cacciucco, or buridda - I think this is a quintessential Italian seafood stew. It's made with whatever seafood is readily available; the flavor combinations are all very Italian. And just as every, and I do mean every, Italian dish is made differently by each Italian cook, here's my version...
Brown minced onion, shallots, and garlic, in a large stockpot with a butter and a splash of olive oil. Add sliced fennel, a teaspoon of anise seeds, and a pinch of saffron. Cook till everything begins to soften. Add tomato paste, canned whole tomatoes, vegetable or fish stock, a dry white wine, bay leaves, dried oregano. Stir and bring to a boil for 1-2 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes.

Then add and cook your seafoods. For this version, I used scallops, cod, salmon, shrimp, crab, squid, clams and mussels. Once everything has cooked, stir in fresh rough-chopped basil. Some cioppino recipes call for Sambuca. I didn't have any in my cabinet, so I added a splash of Liquore Strega, a saffron liqueur.

Serve with a crusty bread. Pronto al tavolo!

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