Chesapeake Bay Cioppino

J – Oh boy! Cioppino!

I love cioppino. But, I don’t get much chance to have it. Very few people [restaurants] make a good cioppino. At least, not around here. Yes. San Francisco. Yes. NYC. Yes, just about anywhere near a big, cold-water-ocean fishing center there is a good chance for excellent cioppino. Of course, at $25 to $35 a bowl plus the airfare and overnight, that’s mighty expensive soup.

What to do? Ask Luke! We thought sharing a great cioppino recipe with you would be an excellent end-of-year treat. Today, it’s Chesapeake Bay Cioppino. Why? ‘Cause we couldn’t find any West-coast crabs. So, it’s East coast in honor of the blue crabs.

This is a dish that works well as a group effort. There is a bit of fish-prep, in addition to making the cioppino soup base.

The braver souls might want to deal with cooking the live crabs and whole-fish fileting.

Christina did step back quickly when the live crabs went flying across the room into the steaming cooking pot. Nice moment.

We worked at Luke-pace when we made the cioppino … fast. First thing was to prep the fish. Filet the Pomfret (butterfish), rinse the shrimp, debeard the mussels and rinse the clams. The live crabs waited until the huge pot was boiling. Then, dump the live crabs into the sink. They will grab onto each other, kind of like a crab-chain. Push them a bit ’til they do. They get a little mad, so watch your fingers! Grab the back end of the lead crab and quickly drop the whole bunch onto the boiling water.

Next was prepping the veggies, cooking them and making the cioppino soup base. When that’s ready, add the fish in the right order and let the wonderful flavors combine as they cook. Clean the cooked crabs, meanwhile.

Chesapeake Bay Cioppino
Recipe type: Mains,Soups
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 2 hours
Serves: 6
  • 4 large blue crabs
  • 1 lb manila clams
  • 1 white fish (Pomfret, aka Butterfish, filleted, yields about 1 lb)
  • 2 lb mussels
  • 1 lb large shrimp, head-on (that’s where the great flavor is) and feet-on for looks.
  • 1 yellow onion, small dice
  • 4 celery ribs, small dice
  • 1 fennel bulb, small dice
  • 8 garlic cloves minced
  • ½ bunch each oregano and parsley, chiffonade
  • ½ bottle red wine
  • 1 qt Tomato Sauce
  • Sour dough bread for service
  1. Steam crabs for 10-15 minutes. When done, clean and set aside.
  2. In a large pot or dutch oven, sweat onion, celery and fennel on medium heat until soft
  3. Add garlic and herbs and cook for about 5 minutes
  4. Add wine to deglaze pan. Simmer wine and vegetables until wine is almost gone.
  5. Add tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Add water or clam juice if the sauce seems too thick.
  6. Add clams first and wait 5 minutes
  7. Add mussels and wait 5 minutes
  8. Add shrimp and fish, bring to a light simmer cover for 10 minutes
  9. Stir and fold gently until clams and mussels are done. The shrimp and fish should be done as well.
  10. Place servings of the cleaned crab in large soup bowls
  11. Ladle individual bowls
  12. Serve immediately, with crusty sour dough bread on the side
  13. Enjoy!

Tomato Sauce recipe.

Service was really quick. Once the fish is done, you don’t want to wait. Have your bowls and bread ready.

Thanks, Luke, for the best cioppino we’ve ever had … and a recipe so we can to this again.

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