My San Francisco
Cioppino is said to have
originated at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco. One version of its
origin that I heard (but is unsubstantiated) says that Italian fishermen would
boil up pot of fish stew at the docks early in the morning to eat after
returning from a night of fishing on the Bay. Those who wanted to eat the
stew had to "chip in" fish from their catch. This practice resulted in
many varieties of fish being put into the pot, and it was affectionately given
the name of "chip-in-o". The Italianized version came to be called
My version of this traditional San Francisco
dish adds fresh bulb fennel, Pernod and saffron rice. The recipe is
relatively easy. Make the fish stock, then add to it chopped tomatoes,
fish and other seasonings. The saffron rice is cooked separately and added
to the cioppino just before serving.
This recipe is written in 3 parts, but read
the whole recipe before you start to get the right timing so that all the parts
are ready at the same time.
1. Tomato-Fish Broth Preparation
2 large bulbs fresh fennel (with stalks)
1 lb. of fish bones, trimmings
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. fennel seed
2 cups water
2 cups white wine
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup Pernod (or other anise flavored liquor)
2 1/2 TBS tomato paste
2 cups chopped Roma tomatoes (skinned and seeded) or the canned equivalent
3 cloves finely diced garlic
- Trim the stalks off the fennel. (Reserve the
bulbs to be used later in the recipe.) Chop the stalks into 1-2"
- Place the stalks and the fish, onion, fennel seed,
water, wine and bay leaves into a large pot. Bring to a simmer and cook,
partially covered, for about 45 minutes.
- Remove from heat and strain, reserving only the liquid.
Discard the rest.
- Return the liquid to the pot and add the Pernod, tomato
paste, chopped tomatoes and garlic.
- Simmer until the chopped tomatoes start to disintegrate
(about 20 minutes).
- Salt to taste (do not add pepper).
- After the 20-minute simmer, correct seasonings to your
taste, adding more Pernod, tomato sauce and salt as you wish.
2. Fennel and Fish Preparation
- Cut the reserved bulb fennel into slices and sauté in a
generous amount of olive oil for about 10 minutes. until the fennel is soft.
Add the fennel to the tomato/fish broth and let it simmer while you prepare
- Clean the fish and cut into bit size pieces (I use 3
varieties of white fish, a handful of prawns (shells removed) and some baby
- Add first add the 3 varieties of white fish and let
them cook in the tomato-fish broth for 3 minutes. Then add the cleaned
prawns and sliced squid and continue to cook for another 3 minutes.
Saffron Rice Preparation
- Cook 1 cup of basmati rice in 1.5 cups of water that
has been seasoned with a few strands of saffron. The rice will take
about 15 - 20 minutes to cook. After it is done, set it aside and keep
warm for about 10 minutes. (This improves the texture.)
- To serve, ladle the cioppino into large warm bowl
and top with a 1/2 cup (or more) of saffron rice.