Yesterday, I sat and plundered through cookbooks trying to find a good seafood stew recipe. I tend to read recipes and then come up with my own version. After spending quite a few years in Louisiana, and often cooking one pot dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, and courtbouillon, I knew with our cooler temps (70’s, lol) I needed some of that spicy comfort food.

Living on the Gulf Coast has afforded me great access to wonderful seafood, and the ability to befriend many fisherman and fishmongers. One of my favorite places to go for local seafood is Joe Patti’s when I am in Pensacola. There, I am able to pick up most everything I need , except specific produce shown above, which I picked up at the local market.

Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Francisco, California. It is an Italian-American dish, and is related to various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine.

Make sure to use good olive oil in any dish that calls for it. I like to use California Olive Farms, Georgia Olive Farms, and Pensacola’s Shoreline Foods (seen below).

I also like these canned tomatoes.

Tomato Stock

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 6 garlic cloves, halved
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed basil leaves, torn
  • 4 pints cherry tomatoes (about 2 pounds), halved
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • Two 28 oz cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • Salt


    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
    • 1/2 fennel bulb, finely chopped
    • 1/2 cup thinly sliced young celery leaves
    • 4 oregano sprigs
    • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    • 1 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed
    • 2 pounds mussels, scrubbed of beards
    • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
    • Four 3-ounce skinless red snapper fillets
    • Salt
    • Flat-leaf parsley leaves, for garnish
    • Toasted baguette slices, for serving
The Stock

In a large, heavy bottom pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallot, garlic and basil and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the shallot is translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook until the skins loosen and the tomatoes soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the wine and simmer over moderate heat until reduced by half, about 8-10 minutes.

Pass the canned tomatoes and their juices through a food mill or processor into a large bowl.

Add the pureed tomatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 40 minutes. Let cool slightly, then strain the broth through a sieve into a large bowl, pressing on the solids; you should have about 8 cups of broth. Season with salt. Rinse out the pot.

The Cioppino

In the same pot, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the leek, fennel, celery, oregano and crushed red pepper and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until the vegetables have softened, about 3 minutes. Pour in the tomato stock and bring to a simmer. Add the clams, cover and cook for 5 minutes, shaking the pot occasionally. Stir in the mussels and shrimp. Season the snapper with salt and place it on top of the stew; press gently to partially submerge it. Cover and cook until the fish is just white throughout, about 6-8 minutes.

Optional: Squid and lump blue crab are also nice additions. The squid can be added with the shrimp, the crab at the very end with the fish. I also like to sometimes add a splash of Herbsaint or Pernod.

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