Crab Season Means Cioppino Season


Crab season opens today here in the Bay Area and that can oly mean one thing – CIOPPINO time!!! Oh ya, cioppino time.

I feel so bad for my friends that are allergic to shellfish because this is one of my favorite dishes of all time. Crab season comes along just when winter is starting so a nice, warm seafood stew is all the better this time of year. And the Dungeness crab we get here is oh so darned good.

While the crabs do add that extra something special, I can find a way to make this any time of the year. That is the beauty about cioppino – pick whatever is fresh at the time and throw it the pan. Below is my tried and true recipe (slightly adapted from a Mike Martini the winery guy recipe ripped out of a magazine years ago) – a little on the spicy side with the pepper, but just the right amount of zip.

Truly though, you can sub out any number of other seafood items and get fantastic results– squid, octopus, bay scallops, clams, a thick whitefish like halibut or swordfish, or king crab legs.


1 Cooked Whole Crab
4 diver scallops
10 medium shrimps
10 mussels
½ lb thick salmon, cubed into 1” pieces

2-3 Anaheim peppers
1-2 jalepeno
1 red bell pepper
1 medium onion
2 celery stalks
½ cup fresh Italian parsley
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 sprigs of fresh oregano
4 cloves of garlic
1 16 oz can tomato sauce
1 12 oz can diced tomatoes
2 cups white wine
1 bottle of clam juice
2 bay leaves
1/4 lemon
Salt/pepper to taste

This recipe is a healthy serving for two people. When you split it up, each person ends up w/ 2 scallops, 5 muscles, 5 shrimp, ½ crab, and ¼ lb of salmon. It is way more sauce than you need, but you need a good quantity to submerge all the seafood for cooking.

First, prep all of the seafood ahead of time so that it is cleaned and ready to go. If the seafood you have chosen allows you to extract a stock, by all means prepare that ahead of time as well and use instead of the clam juice. After prepping all the seafood, leave it in the fridge until the sauce is ready. For the crab, I like to ¼ it.

Roast the Anaheim peppers in the stove for about 15 minutes on the middle rack with the broiler on high. Flip every 5 or so minutes and once it is charred remove from the oven and seal in a zip lock back with a wet paper towel. In 5 minutes, remove peppers from the bag, peel the skin off, and de-stem/de-seed it.

While the Anaheims are cooking, prep all the other ingredients- seed & dice the jalepeno & red bell pepper, dice the onion and celery, mince the fresh herb leaves, and mince the garlic.

Saute the Anaheims, jalepeno, onion, celery, and garlic for 10 minutes in a large dutch oven. Add in the fresh herbs and sauté an additional 4 minutes. Pour in the white wine and simmer high to burn off the alcohol, about 3 minutes. Add the clam juice (or seafood stock) and simmer an additional 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and lemon then bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer at least 30 minutes, but the longer the better. Salt and pepper to taste, but keep in mind you are adding seafood that is salty. The sauce can be prepared ahead of time and left on the stove at low temp until you are ready to add the seafood.

About 30 minutes before serving, finish the preparation of the sauce by removing the bay leaves and lemon. Using an immersion blender, blend the sauce to your desired thickness – we like ours to have a little rustic chunk to it, but for a nice refined sauce, take it all the way down. Bring the sauce up to a lively simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes, then add all the seafood at once, stirring it in. The seafood will need to cook uncovered for about 8 minutes, stirring once or twice to cook evenly. Once done, transfer to warmed serving bowls immediately.

This is not a dainty, white napkin meal. It is a dig in, crack some crabs, lick your fingers kind of dinner. I am a nice host, so I do run a scissors down the legs of the crab prior to putting them in the pot. This makes them a little easier to break apart during the meal. Use some bread to sop up the sauce and serve with a nice cabernet or zinfandel. If beer is your thing, try an Anchor Steam, a San Francisco beer that goes nice with this San Francisco take on seafood stew.

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