Rach's cioppino is her ode to the seafood and tomato soup from the city by the bay, complete with crunchy sourdough croutons.
"Cioppino is not an Italian dish, but a creation of Italian-American immigrants from Genoa working in the seafood industry of San Francisco in the late 1800s," Rach says. "The name is a reference to the Genoese dialect word ciuppin, or to chop, or a mispronunciation of il ciuppin, or small soup. The soup was made of leftovers from the catch of the day—Dungeness crab, mussels, shrimp and fish. The base was wine and tomatoes, and the soup was served with, of course, sourdough bread, also a San Francisco specialty."
- 1 small round loaf sourdough bread
- About ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 6 cloves crushed garlic
- 2 curls lemon peel
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 1 small bulb fennel, quartered, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 leek, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 rib celery, thinly sliced on bias with leafy tops
- 1 small onion, quartered and thinly sliced
- 6 garlic, sliced or crushed
- 2 bay leaves
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon fennel pollen, optional
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, or ⅓ palmful
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cups half a bottle dry white wine, or ½ cup white vermouth and 1 ½ cups wine
- 2 cups chicken bone broth or stock or seafood stock
- One 28-ounce can Italian crushed tomatoes
- One 24-ounce jar passata, or 3 cups tomato puree
- 1 ½ pounds scrubbed mussels
- 1 pound large shrimp, deveined, tails removed
- 1 pound Dungeness crab or king crab leg meat
- 1 pound halibut, cut into large pieces
- 1 lemon
- Chopped parsley, for garnish
For croutons, heat broiler.
Cut bread in half horizontally, then cut into 12 to 16 large chunks.
In a small pot, warm EVOO, butter, garlic, lemon and thyme.
Place rack in upper third oven. Char bread at edges under broiler, brush with garlic butter mixture and broil 1 minute more, reserve.
For cioppino, heat the EVOO, 4 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat in a large, wide, stainless brassier or a wide Dutch oven or a large skillet with a lid. Add fennel, leeks, celery, onions, garlic, bay, salt and pepper, fennel pollen (if using), oregano and red pepper flakes, partially cover and soften 7 to 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vermouth and let it absorb, then wine, or add 2 cups wine, reduce 2 minutes, add broth or stock and tomatoes and passata or puree. Remove bay leaves. If you like a smoother sauce, puree with a stick blender. If you like a thicker sauce, leave it be. Add the mussels and shrimp, and cover pan to open mussels. Discard any that remain closed after 3 to 4 minutes. Add crab, add fish seasoned with salt and pepper, nest fish into the tomato broth and cook about 4 minutes more. Add juice of 1 lemon.
Arrange the seafood evenly in 4 to 6 dinner plates and top with ⅔ of the broth, soak bread chunks in remaining broth, then divide among bowls. You can also add some of the bread to the pot and serve from the pot at table. Garnish with chopped parsley.