Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cioppino-AKA Cha-Pee-No

Food, food I love you so.
I will always love you wherever I go.
Food, food you may not know,
But in my life, you play the leading role.
Jing Han  
I like trying to cook something new almost once a week.  It keeps things interesting.  Every once in awhile you have a real disappointment but I find that for the most part if you make a dish full of tasty ingredients you will end up with a tasty end product as well.  Thus was the case for last weekend's new dish-Cioppino (aka-Cha-Pee-No.)  I had tasted this dish back in the fall in Boston at a great seafood restaurant called Atlantic Fish Co.  It was probably the most expensive thing on the menu but I had always wanted to try it.  The menu described it as: San Francisco Cioppino: with lobster, shrimp, clams, fish scallops and mussels simmered in a spicy saffron seafood broth.  And this is how it was served...
Impressive huh?  I knew my version wasn't going to live up no matter what I did (mostly because I wasn't going to buy a whole lobster to split for the top) but I was determined to make it deliver the same flavor punch.

I checked out quite a few recipes online, both for ingredients and procedure, as well as checking some of the reviews and I surprisingly found the most highly reviewed recipe was this one from Rachael Ray.  I guess it shouldn't be that surprising as her show is one of the most popular and therefore her recipes receive a good number more reviews than some of the other ones on that site.  But just because it was well reviewed didn't mean it didn't need a little tweaking.  A few changes I made include:

  • Seafood used: Clams, mussels, shrimp, mahi-mahi filet, bay scallops, and some crab meat.
  • Substitutions-I used fennel instead of the celery, 2 cups chicken stock PLUS 2 cups of seafood stock for some of the cooking liquid (as well as the listed wine-a Pinot Grigio.)
  • I also doubled the amount of crushed pepper flakes.
Here is my prepped food ready to go-I always suggest doing this ahead of time if you are making something complicated.  Not only does it make sure you have everything on hand and ready to go for seamless cooking but it just looks simply cool when you take pictures of it for your blog.
A few other notes as far as the recipe goes.  It took a good bit longer than her stated "30 minutes"-this is normally the case with her recipes and it wasn't a big deal to me.  I let my veggies and broth/tomatoes/wine cook a bit longer than it stated, just to build the flavor up a bit.  Also my seafood took longer to cook-especially the clams.  My clams were fairly large and took a good 13 minutes or more to open.  Luckily with clams and mussels you always know when they are done-they open up, it's basically a no-brainer.  So my seafood addition list went a bit like this: toss in the fish (3 mins), add crab meat (which was already cooked), add shrimp and scallops (3 mins) add clams (3 mins), add mussels (3 mins.)  Problem was that the clams were not open at this point so I had to crank the heat up to high and give it another 5-7 minutes to get the clams open.  Depending on what kinds of seafood you might use you will need to adjust the cooking times accordingly.  At this point I was around 30 minutes past Leslie's requested dinner time, the time I was planning on serving dinner ;) but it was ok.  So here is the finished product:
So not quite as pretty as the restaurant version but a fun dish to make and serve.  I did have lemon wedges and a nice loaf of crusty sourdough bread along side.  Using fewer types of seafood would obviously bring the cost per portion down a good bit and the meal honestly would be just as tasty!  So get out there and try some Cha-Pee-No for yourself!