VCS Fisherman’s Stew Tips

DSCN2288On April 7, Chef Chris Clark came from Legal Sea Foods to show our trainees how to make Fisherman’s Stew. This Italian-American creation, also known as cioppino, originated in San Francisco in the late 1800s. It started as a poor man’s dish, using seafood commonly had on hand to make something unique and delicious. Though there are some defining characteristics, it still leaves plenty of room to be customized with a loving touch.

The Base. Tomato paste and white wine make up of the majority of the base, even more so than water. The alcohol of the wine will cook off, leaving just the flavors behind. This is the perfect part of the dish to utilize cheaper ingredients. By boiling and then removing them, their flavor is added to the mix. If you decide to add seasoning, make sure to select something with a strong flavor, like cilantro.

The Seafood. While there were specific types of seafood historically used on Fisherman’s Wharf, the key to this stew is to use what is on hand and fresh. If using shellfish, like clams or mussels, in the shell, more cooking time will be needed. On the other end of the spectrum, delicate elements, like lobster or breaded fish, should be added at the very end. They only need to be brought to temperature.

The Preparation.  The name of the dish comes from the Italian word meaning “chopped”. Conveniently, cutting the meat into small pieces shortens their cooking time. That being said, this is still a stew. The longer it is cooked, the thicker and more flavorful it will become. Let your desired result guide how long to cook it. Whatever your preference, make sure to serve it with your favorite toasted bread.