By Andrew Macdonald

At Christmas, my younger brother, who lives near JR Ewing’s Southfork ranch in Texas, makes this recipe from the shellfish cookbook How To Make Love To A Lobster.

The book is now in its third printing. It was first released in 1988, and re-published in 2013. You can find copies at Monte Snow’s leading fish emporium, Fisherman’s Market, on the Bedford Highway.

I have featured this recipe before, but it is worth repeating this weekend. The recipe originated at the Tadich Grill in San Francisco, and is courtesy of Chef John Canepa. Serves four people.

Cioppino
Sauce
4 Tbsp (60 mL) olive oil
4 Tbsp (60 mL) butter
½ medium onion, chopped
½ celery stalk, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 Tbsp (15 mL) fennel, chopped
½ medium bell pepper, chopped
½ leek stalk, white part only, chopped
one 28 fl oz (840 mL) can crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp (15 mL) tomato paste
3½ cups (875 mL) water
1 Tbsp (15 mL) salt
¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper
½ tsp (2.5 mL) oregano
½ tsp (2.5 mL) basil
¼ tsp (1 mL) thyme
4 bay leaves
dash of cayenne

Seafood
4 Tbsp (60 mL) olive oil
4 Tbsp (60 mL) butter
1 tsp (5 mL) garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp (30 mL) flour
8 oz (250 g) halibut, cut into ½-inch × 2-inch (1 cm × 5 cm) pieces
8 oz (250 g) swordfish, cut into
½-inch × 2-inch (1 cm × 5 cm) pieces
8 large scallops
8 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
4 oz (125 g) Bay shrimp
6 oz (175 g) crab meat
1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine

Garnish
8 cherrystone clams
1 Tbsp (15 mL) parsley

To make the sauce, heat olive oil and butter in a heavy saucepan. Add onions and sauté over medium heat for about 1 minute. Do not brown. Add celery, carrots, fennel, bell pepper and leek. Braise for about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, salt, pepper and remaining herbs and spices. Simmer sauce for at least 2 hours, keeping it consistently hot and stirred.

In a large frying pan, heat oil and butter. Add garlic and sauté for a few seconds. Lightly dust all the seafood with flour. Add to the pan and sauté until golden—about 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir for about 1 minute to reduce. Transfer sauce to the frying pan, cover and simmer for a further 7 minutes.

Wash clams carefully to remove the sand. Steam for approximately 5 minutes or until opened.

Serve in a casserole or large soup dish, garnished with the steamed clams and sprinkled with parsley, with toasted French bread spread with butter, garlic and oregano.

Cioppino Secrets
Chef John Canepa, the creator of this dish, kindly revealed to us five secrets for a cioppino delizioso:
Use absolutely fresh fish.

To enhance rather than mask the taste of the fish, make the sauce, with its wonderful herb aroma, light—not strong and overbearing.
Make sure the fat in the skillet is hot. Sauté the fish before adding wine and sauce.

Reduce the wine during the sauté as evaporation removes the alcohol, leaving behind the wine’s bouquet.

Do not cook the seafood in the sauce for hours as this toughens shrimp, clams and scallops and makes the fish fall apart and become mushy. When served to your guests, the fish should look and taste firm