Michael went to San Francisco a couple of years ago for a work conference on web technology. His visit didn’t produce any amazing insights into the Internet and its future, but he did come home with dinner and a new appreciation for California. Unfortunately, I wasn’t there so I’ll leave Clementine Paddleford from the New York Herald Tribune to fill you in on some of Michael’s favorite eats:

“‘What’s this?’ ‘Your bib, madam,’ said the waiter, tying a cloth of white around my neck. In red stitched lettering the bib announced “I’m eating cioppino.” The words were scarcely digested when the stew arrived. The first fragrant fumes wreathed up to make friends with the nose. I poked into the dish with an exploring fork, a strange gathering of seafare–oysters, lobsters, crab, clams. Then the first rapturous taste of the sauce-steeped garlic bread–ummm, delectable sauce! This cioppino, pronounced “cho-PEEN-o,” is a bouillabaisse of sorts, a kissing cousin of the bouillabaisse of Mediterranean cities, but this a California creation found nowhere else. Don Sweeney, Jr., and Gene McAteer, the Erin lads who operate Tarantino’s, told me the name is a corruption of the Italian word cuoco, which means “cook.” A fisherman’s concoction made first by the Genoese who man the small fishing boats which chug in and out of the harbor.

The dish is made over charcoal braziers, made of whatever the day’s catch supplies. It may be shellfish entirely, or seafood and shellfish, the various kinds washed, cleaned, layered in the pot; then a rich garlicky tomato sauce added and the collection cooked. A green salad is just right with this meal-in-a-bowl and remember to allow at least a half-dozen paper napkins apiece.”

California Chowder

Michael discovered Clementine’s article and the recipe below and was ecstatic when our regular Friday night dinner with my parents turned into Cioppino night. We “followed” the recipe loosely taking into consideration we were hungry and impatient and came up with what Michael called “the real thing”. (I’ve included our small variations in brackets next to the authentic directions just in case you find yourself in the same position.) The photograph on the right is our final product. Cheers!

Tarantino’s Cioppino Sauce –

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 leek (with leaves)
  • 3 green onions
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 no. 2 can tomatoes with juice
  • 1 8 ounce can tomato puree
  • Pinch thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups white wine

Finely dice onion, green pepper, leek [no one volunteered for a supermarket run so we left the leeks out], green onions, and tomatoes. In a large skillet saute, garlic, onion, green pepper, leeks and green onions in the oil until golden. Add tomatoes and juice, tomato puree, thyme and bay leaf. Cover and cook slowly two to three hours [we waited a generous 35 minutes – we were starving!] stirring frequently.

Stir in wine and salt and pepper to taste and cook ten additional minutes.

Tarantino’s Cioppino Shellfish Assortment –

**[Some supermarkets carry large bags of prepared and frozen seafood assortments for the timid and/or hungry cook]

  • 16 little neck clams in the shell
  • 4 uncooked medium oysters in the shell
  • 8 large uncooked shrimp, shelled
  • 2 small uncooked lobsters
  • 2 medium cooked crabs
  • 1 each striped bass and halibut, de-boned

Cut bass and halibut [our choice fish was talapia] in generous two inch pieces. Allow clams and oysters to stand in fresh water for one hour then scrub shells thoroughly. Split lobsters and crabs in half in the shell and disjoint the crab legs. Layer assortment in a large deep saucepan starting with the fish. Cover with the sauce and simmer, covered, 15 minutes, adding water if necessary.

Heap into soup plates, garnish with garlic-toast fingers and serve hot. Yields 4 portions.

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