SOUPSONG HAS GONE HARDCOPY!
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This wonderful American fish stew hails from California, originally made by Italian-American (and some say Portuguese) fisherman along San Francisco's coast. In any case, Cioppino means "fish stew" in Genoese dialect. As with most fishermen stews, the ingredients aren't cast in stone--but rather a result of the day's cast. It's hard to beat James Beard's version in his New Fish Cookery, though you can certainly cut back on--or substitute for--the extravagance of seafood he recommends and still have a feast. Serve hot as a meal to 6-8, heavy on the red wine and garlic bread.
Start by soaking the mushrooms in cold water, then prepare the seafood. Cut the raw fish in serving-sized pieces. Shell and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails intact. Clean and steam the mussels or clams in a quart of water or stock for about 4-5 minutes (until the shells open) and save the liquid. Break the crab apart or cut the lobster in pieces.
Make the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan, then saute the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and green pepper and cook for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook down for a minute or two, then add the tomato paste, the wine, and 4 cups of the mussel or clam broth. Salt and pepper to taste, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes.
When ready to assemble, arrange the seafood in a large kettle: first the crab or lobster, then the fish, topped by the shrimp. Bring the sauce to a boil, then pour into the kettle, cover, and cook on low heat for 8 minutes. Toss in the mussels or clams (to reduce shell volume, you can wrench off and throw away half the shell before tossing in), cover, and heat for 2 more minutes.
Bring the kettle to the table and ladle out. Make sure everyone has big towels and nutcrackers and picks--it's a gloriously messy meal.