Cioppino cuts corners but not flavor

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Cioppino, that marvelous Italian-American seafood stew with roots in San Francisco, is not hard to make. But a luxurious cioppino typically uses many types of seafood — crab, mussels, scallops, shrimp, squid, halibut — which does not exactly make it weeknight (or wallet) friendly.

This version uses shortcuts and a limited amount of seafood, mostly fish fillets. Choose whatever firm fish is on sale (the freezer case is a good place to start): mahi-mahi, cod and halibut are good choices. Likewise, buy all-white crabmeat, not the pricier lump; it's basically shredded and will help thicken the stew.

If you've got frozen shrimp on hand (we did), throw a few in at the end.

We added mushrooms to replace some of the texture supplied by the (missing) squid and scallops. Prepared condiments are used as time-savers, but feel free to chop your own onions, peppers and garlic, knowing that these also will require additional prep and cooking time.

Serve your cioppino with a crusty bread that can withstand a dunk into the stew.

A Cheaper Cioppino

Prep: 15 minutes; Cook: 20 minutes; Makes: 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

1½ cups frozen chopped onions

1 cup sliced mushrooms

1 tablespoon Italian herb blend

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

Freshly ground black pepper

2 cans (16 ounces each) diced tomatoes, with their liquid

⅓ cup red wine or to taste

3 fillets firm fish (12 ounces total), such as mahi-mahi, cod or halibut, cut in chunks

1 jar (6 ounces) roasted red peppers, drained, coarsely chopped

1 can (6 ounces) all-white crabmeat

8 to 12 frozen cooked shrimp, tail removed, optional

1 teaspoon sugar, optional

Chopped fresh parsley

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, herb blend, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper to taste; cook until mushrooms are softened, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and wine; heat to a boil.

Stir in the fish, making sure pieces are submerged; lower heat so mixture remains at a slow boil. Cook until fish is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in roasted red peppers, crabmeat and shrimp, if using. Heat until warmed through, about 3 minutes. Taste; if stew is too acidic, stir in sugar. Serve, topped with parsley.

Per serving: 293 calories, 8 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 74 milligrams cholesterol, 25 grams carbohydrates, 26 grams protein, 1,294 milligrams sodium, 3 grams fiber