As you probably have figured out, I like to take traditional recipes and add my own twist. My friend April had been begging for me to make Cioppino. I made it as traditional as I could- seafood stock, clams, mussels, etc. It was good but did not garner the reaction I aspired for. We like things spicy y’all and there is just no way around that. Not dissuaded I decided to take the traditional cioppino recipe and add some Louisiana flare to it.
First I made a crab stock, we have gumbo crabs (small crabs) available all the time and for relatively cheap so they are a great choice for making stocks.
I took out non-local seafood and added in what we can get here easy - crab, shrimp, and oysters. Feel free to use whats in your neck of the woods. This broth lends well to all seafood. Of course, I had to add sausage (I warned y’all we love sausage in everything) and extra spices. Finally, I got the reaction I was looking for. Oohs and Aahs, slurping of bowls and rushes to seconds.
I don’t have any stories about cioppino but I do have a cautionary tale on seafood stock. Y’all check your seafood thoroughly! Smell it and then smell it again. I love homemade stocks and truly believe they make a dish. In my early twenties, I decided to make a big pot of seafood gumbo for friends and family. So of course, I needed a big pot of stock. As per my usual madness, I had over booked myself and had to rush to get supplies. I get home with all my ingredients and started cooking. I got my water boiling and veggies in. I opened my package of shrimp and crabs and just dumped them in. I smelled a slight smell but chalked it up to me being paranoid. I spent the usual hours prepping and cooking the gumbo - it’s not a quick process. As I am combining everything I get another faint waft of a strong seafood smell but against my better judgment proceed on without tasting (taste y’all! taste!). I had minutes to spare and I wouldn't dare make people wait for the free food (I have since learned if you are eating free food you can damn well wait,) so I gently dropped my seafood right at the last minute and told everyone to come eat.
There they are ,my friends and family, sitting around the table about to dig into their big beautiful bowls of gumbo. As they take their first bite I can see their expressions change and the looks of uncomfortableness came across their faces. They all started slowing stirring their bowls and poking at it making side glances at me as if they were all trying to find the closest escape hatch. Except for one friend of mine who was just going to town. I still worry about him. Of course, I asked how it is and I get the very polite answers - “It’s good, I'm just not that hungry, I'm taking my time I want to savor it” etc. Something no one says about gumbo! This is all code for, "this taste awful but I have to be polite and making Jolie angry never ends well." I hightailed to the kitchen and finally got a spoon full of gumbo to taste. OH GOD! it was soooo bad. Like licking a trash can that's full of seafood and has been in the sun bad. Once I stopped gagging I run into the dining room and started grabbing their bowls admonishing them for not telling me that I had tried to kill them. I mean let a girl know! There is polite and then there is a dish that may or may not cause you irreparable harm. You know whats crazy? That one friend just kept eating and wanted more. We should all worry about him.
So learn from my mistakes do not spend 50 bucks on seafood and then not take the time to check it. Don’t let them wrap it in that pristine white paper hiding all their sins away like a whore in church. Insist, no demand you get to smell it and touch it. Save yourself the eternal shame of a whole pot of steaming hot trash.
You will see seafood stock in this recipe. Seafood stock is very simple to make and is much faster than other stocks. I use multiple items as a base of my seafood stocks. Shrimp shells, fish heads/bones and of course crabs shells. In a normal size stock pot put your seafood base the amount will vary depending on what you're using. Shoot for about the bottom 1/3rd of the pot being seafood. I then add my veggies usually onions, bell pepper, and celery scraps. A good rule of thumb is to prep your veggies ahead of time and use those scraps in your stock so the flavors compliment each other. For example, for an Asian dish, you would need a whole different veggie base. Once you have all this in the stock pot filled with water till about 2 inches above the veggies and seafood. Bring to a boil, now here's an important part only simmer for 25-30 minutes. All other stocks the longer you cook the better. Not seafood stock, if cooked too long the flavor gets too strong and overpowers the finished dish. Once your stock is done strain out solids and set aside, if you want an exceptionally clean broth strain through a cheesecloth lined strainer, your broth will be pretty, pretty.
On to the rest of the recipe. For Ingredients, I removed the traditional Fennel and used Leeks instead and kept the traditional Shallots, onions, and garlic. Except for the seafood and spices, I kept the traditional ingredients. Instead of clams and mussels, I used oysters and crab. I also used two sizes of shrimp some bite size and some big boys, I like adding the big ones not peeled because it makes a prettier bowl and you can test your friend's commitment by who is willing to get down and dirty with them. If you're not willing to get your hands dirty to enjoy the beauty of a well-cooked shrimp, well I'm not sure we can be friends. This one doesn't have fish in it because honestly, all the fish at the store looked suspect and as discussed above if it doesn't seem good, stay very far far away. If you can get your hands on a firm white fresh fish it goes very well in this recipe. Just add it about 10 minutes before the shrimp since it will usually take slightly longer to cook. Next, I added my homemade Cajun seasoning, crushed red pepper, and hot sauce to add that kick I desired. To really Louisiana it up I added sliced spicy smoked sausage(please remember that the sausage will add salt and spice to the stew so you may want to add the Cajun seasoning in increments 1/2 before you simmer and additional after if needed.)
Heat up your oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallots, onions, and salt and sauté until the veggies are translucent about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and combine. Add tomatoes with their juices, white wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Add Cajun seasoning. Add sliced smoked sausage. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low Leave covered and simmer for about 30 minutes letting the flavors blend. Once done skim off any oil that is on top.
Add the shrimp. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add oysters and cook for another 5 minutes. Making sure the shrimp and oysters are cooked through but not over cooked. Add crab meat gently stir to combine and crab is heated through 1-2 minutes. Taste and add more spices or salt and pepper if needed. Ladle in bowls and garnish with green onions or parsley and serve with some crusty French bread to sop up the left over liquid.
*If you are using different seafood adjust cooking times, if you have questions please comment and I will try to lead you in the right direction with cooking times
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek bulb, thinly sliced (white part only)
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
5 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
5 cups fish stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon-1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (recipe on blog) *see notes in blog
1/2 lb spicy smoked sausage sliced into half moons
1 pound uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 pound large shell and head on shrimp
1 pint oysters
3/4 pound lump crabmeat
Hot sauce to taste
Green onions or parsley for garnish
1. Heat up your oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallots, onions, and salt and sauté until the veggies are translucent about 10 minutes.
2. Add the garlic and 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
3. Stir in the tomato paste and combine.
4. Add tomatoes with their juices, white wine, fish stock and bay leaf.
4. Add Cajun seasoning (start with 1/2 tablespoon and add more for more spice after it simmers)
5. Add sliced smoked sausage.
6. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low Leave covered and simmer for about 30 minutes letting the flavors blend.
7. Add the shrimp. Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes.
8. Add oysters and cook for another 5 minutes. Making sure the shrimp and oysters are cooked through but not over cooked.
9. Add crab meat gently stir to combine and crab is heated through 1-2 minutes.
10. Taste and add more cajun seasoning or salt and pepper if needed.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with green onions or parsley and serve with some crusty French bread to sop up the left over liquid.
* If you need to replace seafood just try to match weights and adjust cooking times.