Feast of the Seven Fishes with Cioppino

cioppino
Feast of the Seven Fishes is one of my favorite memories!  It is an Italian Christmas tradition to eat LOTS of seafood on Christmas Eve.  There is a bunch of history that goes with it to explain why it became a tradition…. I won’t bore you with it, but it is basically a Catholic tradition that involves the absence of eating meat and dairy products.  It is believed that the number 7 was chosen because it is the most repeated number in the Bible, but there is no real proof that is the reason.  Some Italians do 7 different dishes or more!  We didn’t do that many in my house, but we would have one of my favorite meals ever…. Cioppino!  Cioppino is a tomato-based soup with a little spice and a lot of seafood!  It is usually served with crusty bread like a sourdough.
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 large shallots, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, you can add more if you like the spice
6 ounces tomato paste
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
3 cups fish stock
2 cups vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup parsleyThe amount of fish can change.  The recipe calls for more than what I used, but I found this to work for me.  This is what I used, but use whatever seafood you like…..
1 1/2 pounds shrimp
1/2 pound small scallops (if you can only find large then cut them into smaller pieces)
1 pound halibut, cubed
1 pound mussels

Note: Fish stock…. not so easy to find!! I found it at our local seafood store Santa Monica Seafood where I also bought my fish.

*Heat oil in a very large pot over medium heat
*Cut up the fennel, onion, and shallots and add to the pan.  Sprinkle the salt over them and saute until soften… about 10 minutes
*Add garlic and red pepper flakes; saute for a couple minutes

 

 

*Stir in tomato paste

 

*Add tomatoes in their juices, wine, fish stock, veggie stock
*Stir well
*Add the bay leaf and stir

 

 

*Cover and bring to a simmer
*Reduce the heat to medium-low and cover
*Let simmer for about 30 minutes so that the flavors can marry
*Meanwhile, place the mussels, if using, in a bowl.  Cover with water and add some flour.  Let sit for 30 minutes.  This makes them get rid of any sand that might be in them. After 30 minuts,  rinse and clean.  Make sure any of the “beards” are removed.

 

*Prepare the rest of the fish

 

*Add the mussels and cover for about 5 minutes
*Add the rest of the seafood and parsley; stirring gently
*Cook for about 5 more minutes
*Discard the bay leaf
*Season to taste with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes

 

 

I found some amazing bread at one of my favorite places in Santa Monica… Huckleberry Bakery and Cafe.

 

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