General

Three Christmases, and a recipe for Cioppino

It has been a LOOOOONG time since I posted… I have been slacking. Mostly because I moved home and have fallen into a pattern of gym, dinner, Game of Thrones (until we caught up), then sleep. And I totally forgot to even make time to blog. I wasn’t being creative anymore – just cooking directly from recipes on Pinterest. Which isn’t bad, just not as fun. Honestly, I think the pressure of cooking for other people (namely my parents) took some of the fun, creative process out of cooking for me. Lord knows how I’ll be able run my family some day…

But no more excuses, my new years resolution for 2016 is going to be putting up at least one post each month – I should be able to do that! So why not start now? Good plan.

This year, Christmas was kind of scattered around. We had dinner with my mama’s family the Sunday before Christmas. On Christmas Eve there were just six of us: my dad’s brother and his wife joined my parents, my sister and me. And Christmas day was literally just breakfast and a movie marathon: first we watched Elf and the ABC Family (which is apparently called “Freeform” now??) continued on with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which of course we watched. FYI, when Harry Potter is on TV, it takes FOUR HOURS to get through one movie with all those commercials…. like, what?

Christmas Sunday I didn’t get any photos… which I’m bummed about because it was the big exciting family Christmas dinner. Anybody who knows me knows that ham is my favorite meat. So of course, I made this Orange Spiced Ham from PaleOMG, which we burned a little bit because we tried cooking it outside on the barbecue. The flavors were amazing, but some of it was scorched and unfortunately inedible.

Funny story about the ham here… Both of my parents thought we wouldn’t have enough meat so midway cooking that day, my mom scooted over to the store to grab another ham. We cooked both, and even with the burnt portion of ham that we couldn’t eat, we had almost a WHOLE ham leftover… whoops.  I was perfectly happy about this because it meant every time I walked past the fridge I could snack and pick on the leftover ham bounty. And we ended up making split pea soup with the leftover ham and bones – which is one of my favorite post-holiday traditional meals.

Along with the million pounds of ham, I also made a family favorite: Skinny Scalloped Potato Gratin from Skinnytaste, which we’ve made a few times now and is always a hit. And we had a new winner: Roasted Brussels and Squash with Pomegranate and Gorgonzola. I’ve been holding onto this recipe for a while, but have never been a huge fan of Brussels sprouts. I figured they were classic Christmas/holiday fare so now was as good a time as any to try them again. I mean, at the very least I could pick out the gross little cabbage balls and eat the rest. Turns out they were delicious and I (along with the rest of my family) gobbled it all up. I also made a large batch version of this simple Lemon Walnut Salad, which I will definitely make again for myself. 

Now, on to the real post for today: San Francisco Cioppino.

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Our Christmas Eve dinner was my family’s concession to my desire to create the traditional Italian Christmas feast: La Vigilia (or the Feast of the Seven Fishes). For the uninitiated, Cioppino is a San Francisco-ized version of a French Bouillabaisse fish stew, but with a tomato based broth. This recipe is the one we followed, and it is perfect. We had to modify it slightly because crab wasn’t available… something with toxic algae in the Pacific Northwest. We got lobster claws, so it was actually a forced upgrade.

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For some reason, my family never thinks there will be enough food to eat. My mom and dad went out to get the fish and shellfish for the cioppino two days previous, and were convinced that we needed more. My dad went back and doubled up on everything and – surprise, surprise – we had TONS of leftovers. Not that I’m complaining about that. This soup was good one more time for dinner, just simply reheated on the stove.

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Looking at the recipe, it can seem intimidating with the laundry list of ingredients, but it’s mostly just cans of things you throw in there. Please scroll all the way down for the recipe – I’m not done with you here yet.

PS: has anybody played Mexican Train before? It’s a dominoes game that doesn’t take too much brain power, just a little bit, and it’s really fun. Especially over wine and drinks. We played it after dinner until about 1AM and didn’t even realize it was so late! Good times.

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On Christmas day we were totally lame. We meant to roast a Prime Rib… but it was FROZEN SOLID. I know that I know better, 7.5 lbs takes more than a day to defrost in the fridge. Oh well – maybe we’ll save it for Easter, haha! For Christmas morning breakfast, after stockings and gifts, we had a lovely meal of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and our classic Pillsbury cinnamon rolls from a tube. That’s been our family’s tradition for as long as I can remember. We’d start opening all the presents and then begin to smell the cinnamon rolls baking – not sure which was more exciting.

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Please excuse all my low quality photos – they’ve all been taken on my camera phone in horrible lighting. I promise I’ll work on getting better at this the more I post on here…


Also, on a totally unrelated note, did you know that feline acne was a thing? Well apparently my Henry has it and I have to clean his face with acne wipes like he’s a 14 year old boy with oily skin. See that little blackish patch on his chin – kitty zits. Well, here’s to hoping he doesn’t claw off my face when I try *fingers crossed*

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I hope you all had a great holiday and I wish you Happy New Year! May 2016 bring you great memories and happiness. XO

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Now for the Cioppino recipe. Drum roll please….

For Cioppino Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ large or 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, halved, core removed, and thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped sweet basil
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 (8-ounce) bottles clam juice (16 ounce total)
  • Dash Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ Tbsp. brown sugar
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Crushed red pepper, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste

For Cioppino

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ¼ cup white wine
  • ½ lb. Little Neck clams
  • ¼ lb. mussels, scrubbed
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 to 1 ½ pound lobster claws, cracked
  • ¼ pound medium shrimp (her recipe says to include the shell but I find them tedious and not worth it flavor-wise)
  • ¼ lb. squid tubes, cut into rings
  • ½ lb. firm-fleshed white fish fillets (we used the seafood chowder mix from Gene’s), cut in 1-inch cubes
  • ⅛ lb bay scallops

Heat 2T olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and sauté a few minutes until translucent. Add the 4 cloves garlic, bay leaves, parsley, basil and thyme, and cook, stirring, just one minute to warm the garlic.

Stir in the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, clam juice, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, black and red peppers, and salt to taste. Bring to boil then reduce heat to low-medium and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Put 1T olive oil, butter, and 1 clove garlic in a large pot over medium heat, until the garlic is fragrant, but not brown. (I intended to do this in my big oval Le Creuset French Oven and quickly realized we needed a large stock pot.)

Add the wine and the clams, and cover. Turn the heat up to medium-high and steam until the clams start to open, about 3 minutes. Add the mussels, cover and steam until the just start to open, about 2 minutes.

Now stir in a ladleful (precise measurement, I know) of the cioppino sauce, and 2 dashes of Worcestershire sauce and bring back up to a simmer.

Add the cracked lobster claws and the shrimp, and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Add the fish, squid, scallops, and cooked crab meat. Add in the remaining cioppino sauce and simmer about 5 minutes until fish is opaque. Don’t keep them in there too long or it’ll all overcook!

Serve it up in big bowls or place it on the table family style for a more fun, Italian twist. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty French bread or whatever artisan loaf you like. Enjoy!

Note: CLEAN THE CLAMS AND MUSSELS! Nothing is worse than finding some sand in a bite of this delicious soup.

Note: Make sure to check if the shells of the clams and mussels are cracked or opened. Those that are just slightly open may still be fresh. To check, squeeze the shell shut. If they don’t stay closed, discard them.

 

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