17/02/2013

Cioppino-esque

CioppinoMy take on the San Fran classic ...

Watching 'Diners, Drive-ins & Dives' it astounds me just how many really good eateries there are in the States.

Granted, they're not perfectly paleo, but they do cook good, real food from scratch and really care about what they make.

I am willing to bet I could eat well at any of the places that are features, just skim over the Mac & Cheese and drop the bread ... and we've got something that is actually pretty good.

Of course, purists could take issue, but then ... they will.

Back to it ...

On one particular episode, it went a little more upmarket and our host found himself in what looked like a better kitchen than the run of the mill episode fodder.

The Chef (sorry, cannot recall his name or even the restaurant) was a San Fran celebrity, but the sound of it, and took his cuisine very seriously.

His special: Cioppino.

I've made this before but had no cultural point of reference other than pictures on google. I enjoyed it very much and though then, if I could watch a Chef actually cooking it, I could really get a handle on what the dish is about and make it quite something.

This was the episode ...

The Chef, typically, had all manner of gear, ingredients and skill which we do not ... but we can make a reasonable approximation at home.

Cioppino "was developed in the late 1800s by Portuguese and Italian fishermen who settled in the North Beach section of San Francisco, many from Genoa, Italy" ... who originally ... "made on the boats while out at sea." Source: Wikipedia

"The name comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa, meaning "to chop" or "chopped" which described the process of making the stew by chopping up various leftovers of the day's catch." Source: Wikipedia

A-ha! Now we're getting to the heart of the dish!

So, a working man's dish, simple sauce and whatever seafood is available.

Our Chef went into some detail with the sauce, which involved a staggering array of processes, but was in essence, good tomatoes and seafood stock.

I eat a lot of seafood and keep all manner of heads, tails, bones, shells and so on in a box in the freezer until I have enough to boil up a stock. I do this with some onion, celery and carrot. Boil ... boil ... boil ... and then sieve. The stock thickens with the goodness from the bones. If I had one of those industrial kitchen blenders, I'd whizz the lot up and pass it through a sieve for maximum flavour, but I don't ... so a simple sieve, rinse and then reduction has to suffice.

The stock is then poured into bags and kept in the freezer until required.

You can do this ... or you can buy fish stock from the supermarket. Check the fresh meat and fish aisle first, since you might just find a pot of fresh stock in and amongst. Otherwise, grab some stock cubes, but do check the ingredients since stock can often contain all manner of things that we primal eaters don't really want to eat.

So, I have my stock ...

I also have some nice tomatoes, which, after cutting an X into the bottom of each, immersing in boiling water for a couple of minutes and pulling off the skins, are ready to dice, toss in goose fat and be introduced to the fish stock along with a damn good squirt of tomato puree.

Once the tomatoes are softened, whizz the lot up with a hand blender. Notice the lack of onion and garlic here? It's tomatoes and fish stock - all the flavour is already in the fish stock.

Sieve again if you like. I did.

Add some chilli, black pepper, sea salt and perhaps some Worcestershire Sauce.

This is the most perfect tomato soup if you ever wanted just a straight-up tomato soup.

So, now, we have our tomato sauce ...

Set to reduce just a touch while you cook through some seafood.

I had fish: cod and smoked haddock; and, shellfish: prawns, scallops, squid and mussels.

Fish first, then the shellfish.

Fold through gently and use the prawns as an indicator as to when things are cooked. The prawns will turn pink.

Ready? Spoon out into a wide-brimmed bowl and garnish with parsley.

Wow! This is fantastic!

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