The key to a good cioppino is creating the right base. Lauro recommends using a bottom-feeding fish like sculpin or rockfish to create a rich and flavorful stock. He likes to say that once you have the proper “juice” you can add just about anything you want. Some options that aren’t included in this recipe would be squid, prawns, zucchini, or eggplant. This recipe yields plenty of soup and freezes well.
Ready in 2 hours Makes 4-6 servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 onion, sliced
- Salt and pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (1-2 pound) whole rockfish or sculpin, gilled and gutted
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 2 liters room temperature filtered water
- 1 pound small new potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 4 carrots, peeled and sliced into ½-inch rounds
- 3 stalks celery, sliced into ½-inch pieces
- 1 (28.2-ounce) can crushed or chunked tomatoes
- 2 whole California spiny lobsters
- 2 pounds mussels
- 2 pounds clams
- 3 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish
1 In a heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat the olive oil and butter together over medium-high heat. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic, and cook for another minute or two, taking care not to burn the garlic.
2 Set the whole fish in the pan along with bay leaves and the water. Bring just to a bare boil before reducing to a simmer. Skim any scum that rises to the surface of the pot. Leave stock to simmer for 20-25 minutes. Carefully remove the fish from the liquid using tongs or a mesh sieve. A “spider” or “skimmer” will also work well. Leave fish to cool slightly before carefully removing flesh from the bones. Set the flesh aside and discard the bones and head.
3 Place prepped vegetables into the stock along with the canned tomatoes, and stir to combine. Bring liquid up to a bare boil before reducing heat to the lowest simmer. Simmer until vegetables are soft, about 30-45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
4 While vegetables cook, prepare the lobsters. Tail the lobsters using our simple method. Remove innards from lobster heads and gently rinse heads under the sink. Use a sharp chef’s knife to halve the head portions and cut the tail portions into 2-inch chunks.5 Add the prepared lobster to the soup 20-25 minutes before serving. Add the mussels and clams 10 minutes before serving. Return the flaked rockfish or sculpin to the pot. Cook just until the clams and mussels are open. Serve Cioppino with garlic-scratched bread from our steamed mussel and clam recipe.