When Erin and I first started dating she told me about how she would love if we could cook something together one night. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too into the idea at first. I tend to be a kitchen Nazi and like things done my way or you aint eating, I’m slowly working on overcoming that. But being that I wanted to make her happy, and we were still in that impressionistic phase, I said “Sure, lets give it a try, what do you have in mind”, with my most reassuring voice. At that point she proceeds to pull out this small pink leather cookbook that her mom had put together for her when Erin moved to NYC and says “Let’s take a look in here!”
I was in awe when I opened it. It was a collection of recipes her mom had perfected and written by hand into the pink lined note book. First off I was impressed, the penmanship was out of control, not like my mom’s scribble (we’ll leave that for another time). Second, there were so many different recipes that sounded so good and you can tell they were tried and tested. As we were flipping through it one recipe popped out right away… Cioppino. I looked over at Erin and I just let her know “We are gonna rock through this recipe together tomorrow afternoon!” with the excitement of a fat kid in a candy store. Erin seemed just as excited telling me it was one of her favorite dishes, as it is mine. Just then I realized maybe this wasn’t gonna be so bad after all.
The dish originates in San Francisco, it’s beginnings attributed to Istrian & Venetian fisherman who worked the SF Bay and would “chip in” their random scraps of seafood they couldn’t sell at the end of their long days. They took these scraps and would make a spicy tomato based stew that was reminiscent of Istrian & Northern Italian seafood brodetto. Side Note: The most authentic Cioppino is served in SF at Istrian run Tadich Grill, yeah my people are all over this dish. This of course is a match made in heaven for me. Fresh fish, shell fish, spicy broth with just enough of a brine to remind you that this is what the ocean should taste like.
That one night was the first of many where we made this dish and started a new tradition of cooking together, although I still won’t let her use the really sharp knives. When we make Cioppino we will go out to a really good fish market together, stock up on fresh fish & shell fish and come right home to get it cooking. I have to say this recipe has become a staple in our house during the winters and early springs. If you like seafood and warm stews this is gonna be your go to after a few tries.
Cioppino (Special thanks to Denise Wolf)
Before I get into the recipe I want to stress one thing, make sure to buy good quality seafood. Don’t be buying some garbage from Associated, you know that scary half frozen fish wrapped in blue Styrofoam trays. There are plenty of really good fish mongers in Brooklyn. One of my favorites is Carroll Gardens Fish Market. Take the extra time speak to the people in the store, ask them what they have that is the freshest and inspect the fish. Also feel free to substitute for the actual fish part in the recipe. We tend to go with Flounder or Striped Bass, use whatever looks the freshest at the store. —AlexValich