Ciopinot’s “No Work” Cioppino

by Hilary Gauntt on September 18, 2013

Ciopinot Restaurant is one of  the most popular places to dine in  San Luis Obispo, and their rich and flavorful version of this classic seafood stew gets raves on Yelp and Tripadvisor.  I think labeling it “no work” is a bit misleading as there is plenty of mincing and slicing going on, but it truly comes together with a  couple of simple steps and can be mostly prepared ahead.  Serve this with crusty garlic bread to mop up the savory sauce. Usually Cioppino includes clams and mussels in their shells, which look festive but don’t add much actual seafood to the dish. (Maybe that’s why they called this “No Work”; no scrubbing all those shells!) This was our Bon Voyage dinner for the Swiss relatives who love to feast on all the fresh fish we’re blessed with here in California.  I tripled the recipe for 9 people and had plenty leftover for a good lunch for myself….which is always my goal!

2 Tbs. olive oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

1/2 pound (about 1 1/2) leeks, ends trimmed, halved lengthwise and sliced diagonally 1/2 inch thick

1 clove garlic, pressed or minced

1 Tbs. chopped parsley

1 dried bay leaf

1/8 tsp. dried oregano

1/8 tsp. dried thyme

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. saffron threads

1 1/2 cups peeled and diced tomatoes, cut into 3/4 inch dice

8 ounces tomato sauce

1 cup dry white or red wine

1/2 to 1 cup clam juice


Hot sauce

4 to 6 ounces large shrimp (16 to 20 count per pound) shelled and deveined

1/2 pound large scallops

6 ounces firm light-flesh fish steaks (such as swordfish) cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces

2 Tbs. cold butter, chopped

Freshly chopped basil and oregano for garnish

In a medium, heavy-bottom pot heated over medium high heat, add the oil, then stir in the onions, leeks, garlic, parsley, bay leaf, oregano, thyme, pepper and saffron.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is translucent and the herbs are fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce and wine.  Cover and simmer gently to develop the flavors, 30 to 45 minutes.  Thin if desired with 1/2 to 1 cup clam juice. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1 Tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste.  The Cioppino base can be made ahead of time to this point; remove from heat, cover and refrigerate up to one day.  Reheat before continuing.

To the pot, add the shrimp, scallops and fish.  Cover and simmer gently just until the fish and shellfish are firm and opaque, about 10 minutes.  Uncover the pot and remove from heat.  Stir in the chopped cold butter, stirring just until the butter melts to add a little richness to the broth. This makes about 5 cups of Cioppino.  Ladle the Cioppiono into wide bowls, garnishing each serving with freshly chopped basil and oregano. Serve immediately.

Note: If you decide to omit the very expensive saffron threads, I would increase the other spices a bit.  The hot sauce is important, although I only used half this amount. My tomatoes were kind of disappointing once I chopped them up, so I used half fresh and half canned.  Great dinner for company as all you have to do at mealtime is heat up the sauce and toss in the fish 10 minutes before you wish to serve it.   Serves 4.




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