San Francisco’s Cioppino is simply a delicious fish stew. San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf is known for Cioppino a dish full of seafood with a tomato sauce base. The main ingredient is the Pacific Ocean’s Treasure – Dungeness Crabs. Sometimes we get told that it can only be made with live DungenessCrabs. Not true! Our Dad, Serge, made San Francisco’sCioppino sometimes using local live Dungeness crabs and other times he used cooked crabs. His secret was in the sauce. He would always add brandy or bourbon -as he sautéed his onions. The flavor that the brandy or bourbon gave the San Francisco’s Cioppino had us dipping the bread in the sauce or licking our fingers after we ate the crabs. I’ve taken the dish to a potluck dinner where there were lots of teens. I thought that only the parents would eat it. Lo and behold as the teens went by I saw Cioppino on their plates! Everyone needed a wet towel to clean their fingers after enjoying the last drop of the San Francisco’s Cioppino. Don’t forget the Sourdough bread!
Lots of tourists visit daily at San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and eat Cioppino at one of the many seafood restaurants. For those in a rush and don’t have time to make the sauce from scratch we sell a Cioppino Sauce in a jar that is the perfect base for your fish stew. It’s really hard some days walking up and down the wharf looking at those tourist indulging in delicious Cioppino. I want to sit down and eat with them!
1. Detach the legs and claws from the bodies of the Dungeness Crabs.
2. Place the clams in a pan with 1 cup of wine and steam covered for 5 minutes or until the clams open.
3. Remove clams from shell.
4. Save the clam and wine juice.
5. Heat oil in a large pot.
6. Saute onion, garlic, and herbs for about 5 minutes.
7. Add the bourbon or brandy for flavor.
8. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, remaining wine, and clam juice.
9. Simmer for 20 minutes.
10. Add fish, scallops, prawns, and crabs.
11. Simmer for 5 minutes. DO NOT STIR.
12. Add the clams and heat for 2 minutes.
Serve the Cioppino from the pot!
When I make this recipe I leave my clams in their shell. I also add some mussels too.
Our grandmother( Annetta Alioto Lazio) had 7 brothers. Her brother, Sal Alioto, was an incredible cook. By day Uncle Sal would the sell the local catch working along side my grandfather. By night he’d would spend hours in the kitchen working with his seafood recipes. Dungeness Crab was one of his favorite ingredients in his recipes. He liked to serve the crabs at room temperature. Uncle Sal whipped up one night the Dungeness Crab Marinade. He just poured it over is a platter of cracked Dungeness Crab. The juices of the crab mixed with the Crab Marinade. “Oh, my gosh!” is what everyone says when everyone tastes it. Many family and friends enjoyed his meals.
To this day the only way we serve cracked crabs is by making a batch of the Dungeness Crab Marinade Uncle Sal created. There are two ways to crack Dungeness Crabs. The first way is to detach the legs and claws from the bodies; we call the Old-Fashion Way. The second way is to quarter the crabs; Our Way. Our Dad and one niece love the Old-Fashion way which but they would hog all the bodies and leave the rest of us with the legs and claws. Our Way gives part body with a group of legs sharing the wealth of Crab Meat. Either way of cracking the Dungeness Crabs makes no difference as long as Uncle Sal’s Marinade is mixing with the crab juicing.