Seafood Swimming in a Fine Red Wine, A Cioppino Delight!

A Cioppino Delight and Friends!

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Completed Cioppino with gluten-free bread (top left), ingredients (bottom left) and my friend Brain helping me cook! (right)

Just last month I had a bunch of good friends over for a dinner party. The theme was Mediterranean and everyone came dressed in white.  We started off with warmed olives & herbs, homemade humus & eggplant dip, and fennel and apple slaw.

The main course was the Cioppino with my favourite homemade gluten free bread (check out the recipe here but this time I made it without the olives and almonds). And then after the Cioppino, we finished off the night with some baked apples with fig & walnuts with homemade coconut ice-cream! Yum! The Cioppino I made has two parts:
  1. The fish stock made from scratch (If you choose not to do so, you can use clam juice or purchase some prepared fish stock).
  2. The Cioppino itself
The Verdict of Cioppino Delight?
I was checking out a few Cioppino recipes online and most had instructions to simmer the cioppino tomato wine base for 20 minutes. I decided to simmer it well over an hour. The wait for the longer simmer was well worth it – it was so rich and full bodied at an hour when compared to what it tasted like at 20 minutes. I also used a tad more expensive bottle of wine. I’m not a believer of using cheap wine for cooking. The homemade fish broth was superb and all of the seafood was cooked just fine and soaked up the base with love (except the clams…see my lesson learned below ). I really love how the soup is presented in a rustic way, especailly with the full corn piece.

I think the Cioppino was well received from my group of friends and everyone was helping themselves to more gluten free bread to dip in it!

 

So what was my lesson learned? Next time I make this Cioppino, I would change my timing of adding in the seafood. I originally threw the clams, shrimp, scallops and halibut all in at the same. The clams did not open up as much as they should have and I was afraid to overcook the other seafood. Next time I will throw in the clams first, let it cook for about 4-5 minutes then add in all other seafood (I adjusted the recipe below to reflect so).

Fish Stock

  • Equal part fish scrap and bones
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 1 bunch celery, halved
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • A pinch salt
  • Sprigs of thyme
  • Sprigs of oregano

Add all ingredients in a large pot. Top with water and bring to boil then lower to a simmer (just under boiling) for 2 hours. Sieve out the vegetables, herbs and bones and you should have a clear tasty broth!

Cioppino Delight Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds halibut, cut into inch cubes
  • 1 pound (or more) of large shrimp
  • 3 pounds little neck clams
  • 2 pounds scallops
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped (1 large onion)
  • 1 cup bell pepper, chopped (1 large bell pepper)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 x 28-ounce can plum tomatoes in juice
  • 6 cups fish stock
  • 3 cups red wine
  • 2 bay leafs, whole
  • 1 teaspoon lemon thyme, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon oregano, chopped fine
  • 1 teaspoon  basil, chopped fine
  • 1 dash of salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon dried chile peppers
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley for garnish
Cioppino Instructions
  1. Split the shrimp shells down the back and remove the black vein. Alternatively, you can shell the shrimps and devein them. Shell-on imparts more flavour; shell-off is easier to eat. Cut out the tough mussel in the scallops if your fish monger has not done so. Also take any bones out of halibut if any.
  2. In a deep 8-quart covered pot, sauté onions, garlic and bell pepper on medium heat in olive oil until soft. Add tomatoes, red wine, fish stock, the herbs, chile peppers and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a gentle boil, and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hour. Remove bay leaves. Taste and correct seasoning.
  3. Add the clams and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the halibut, shrimp and cook, covered, until shrimp are bright pink, about 3 to 5 minutes. Do not overcook.
  5. Serve in large bowls, shells included. Sprinkle with minced parsley and serve with a great piece of bread to dip into the Cioppino with! Enjoy!

Soup Mistress Rating for Cioppino Delight:

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (4/5)
Presentation: (4.5/5) 

Taste: (4.5/5) 

Julienning And Dicing For The Perfect Soup

Knife Skills

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The start of our knife skills class - the honing steel and how to pass the knife

Just over a week ago, I attended a knife skills class at a great cooking school in Vancouver called The Dirty Apron. Working with knives seems to be my weakness while I am attempt to learn new soup recipes – I have cut a few fingertips. So it is time for myself to get learning!

The class was taught by Takashi Mizukami (bio here). He did a splendid job of explaining the types of knives, how to preserve longevity of knives and basic techniques of chopping, cutting, and knife sharpening.

I would definitely attend another Dirty Apron class in future – I was truly impressed with their time management, service in the dining room, professionalism and the facilities (top notch). See list of classes here.

The three main things I learned from the class are:

  1. Don’t buy a set of ten knives
  2. Use your knuckles, move quietly and think of Michael Jackson when using a 8” chefs knife
  3. Perfecting your dicing and julienning will improve your soups in a few ways

#1  Don’t buy a set of ten knives

Start small. The three most important knives that Takashi finds most handy are:

  1. 8” inch Chef knife
  2. Paring knife (good for shallots)
  3. Bread knife (can use for tomatoes too)

Then if you feel like being a pro, the following are the next most popular  (ranked in order from most popular to least)

  • Chopper knife
  • Boning knife (Good for deboning. The tip of the knife is important.)
  • Slicer knife (Has a thinner blade, more flexible. Can be used for carving turkey.)
  • 4” chef knife
  • Fileting knife
  • Turning knife
  • Tomato knife
  • Meat clever

If you were to have the main three knives, then the next most important piece is a Honing Steel. Takashi says it is crucial. Use it with your knives once a week and do 10 passes per knife.

Looking for good knives? Wusthof is the line of knives The Dirty Apron recommends. Check out www.wusthof.com.

#2 Use your knuckles, move quietly and think of Michael Jackson when using a 8” chefs knife

Ah ha. So this is what I need to do to save my fingertips! Don’t ever hold any piece you are cutting with your fingertips pointing to the knife like this:

But your fingers should be behind your knuckle, like this:

Having your fingers behind the knuckles keeps them very safe. Also try to pay special attention to you thumb and pinkie – keep them behind even further.

Then with the knife against your knuckle, use a smooth exaggerated forward motion (think of Michael Jacksons moonwalk) never lifting the knife high above (unless chopping something very large) and should be quiet . If you are hearing the knife slap down on the cutting board then you are not doing the motion smoothly enough.

#3 Perfecting your dicing and julienning will improve your soups in a few ways
During our class we also learned how to prepare an incredible Grilled Corn and Clam Chowder. Our main focus was on the dicing of the ingredients in a consistent manner using the proper techniques.

Dicing and julienning your ingredients in a consistent manner not only look very pretty, but you will also benefit from your ingredients cooking evenly throughout. It’s odd to serve a soup with different sized chunks of veggies as some may be just right and others may be undercooked.

Below is the chowder we made in class. I tried to focus hard on dicing the ingredients with more consistent sizing and the proper technique we were shown. Looks nice to me, but I know I have a lot of practising to do at home to get better at this!

The soup we made in class was very tasty indeed. I may make this recipe on a special occasion, but I would also modify the recipe a tad with a lower fat version.

Here is the soup recipe from our class:

Grilled Corn and Clam Chowder (serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 100g double smoked bacon (cut into ½ inch dice)
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • ¼ carrot (about 70g), diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 120g unpeeled red skin potatoes, diced small
  • 240ml clam nectar
  • 20 fresh clams
  • 125ml white wine
  • 250ml heavy whipping cream
  • 20ml lemon juice (approx. 1 wedge)
  • 1 corn on the cobb
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chives, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch mix with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Salt and Pepper

Cooking Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepot, heat white wine over a medium-high heat and add clams, steaming with a lid on until all clams have opened up. Once clams have opened, remove them from the pot, separate the meat from each shell and reserve both the clam meat and juices in the pan for later use.
  2. In a separate saucepot sauté bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp, approximately 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towel and allow to rest. Pour off all but approximately 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan.
  3. Next, add onions, carrots and garlic to the pan and sauté for approximately 2 minutes. Add in the potatoes, clam nectar and clam juices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. While the soup is simmering, grill cobs of corn on all sides. Using a sharp knife cut the kernels off the cob and set aside.
  5. Add the cream, clam meat, lemon juice, corn, corn starch, thyme and bacon to saucepot and cook until potatoes and corn are tender.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the chowder into bowls and garnish with the sliced chives.

Soup Mistress Rating for Grilled Corn and Clam Chowder :

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (2/5) 
Presentation: (4.5/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5)