A soup of oceanic proportions
Jeremiah felt like fish today. Well, he didn’t actually feel LIKE A FISH, he wanted to eat some… you know what I meant. Since we tend to eat a lot of salmon or shrimp dishes, I wanted to do something different. We planned to buy halibut and some cedar planks to grill for dinner, but I also wanted to do a lighter soup for lunner – between lunch and dinner – as a sort of appetizer/starter dish first. I searched Cioppino (pronounced Sheh-pee-noh) online to keep with the fishy theme today, and what better place to get an Italian-American recipe than from Giada de Laurentiis herself! I got such a late start today, though (day off, woohoo!), that by the time we had picked up Ryley and done all the shopping, it was well past lunchtime and halfway to dinner hour. The problem was that no store had every ingredient I needed, so we went to the good Ralph’s, then Fresh and Easy, and finally Costco – partially for a “sample lunch” (where you graze at every sample station to make one complete meal, haha) to stall until dinnertime. When we finally got home, I went straight to prepping the ingredients while Jeremiah and Ryley played Wii sports.
Ralph’s didn’t have manila clams, so I bought a pound of littleneck clams instead. They were so huge that I only got 7 in the pound (and 1 didn’t open during cooking, boo!), so I should’ve though about the fact that most of the weight was in the shells and bought 2 pounds, but holy clam they were almost a dollar apiece! I also couldn’t find any fresh mussels, which is only slightly annoying since my restaurant easily serves around 50 lbs of them daily, and I couldn’t find one store (that I trusted with fresh seafood) that carried them today. What I did find at Costco, however, was a cool Seafood Medley bag with 2.5 lbs of mixed frozen seafood (wild shrimp and calamari, scallops and pre-cooked mussels). I’m not generally a fan of frozen scallops and shellfish, but at least it wasn’t frozen raw and it was going into soup anyway. Since I had the extra items in the mix (and didn’t really want to use $27 worth of halibut in the soup), I skipped the fish. I had also already bought the pound of shrimp needed, so with everything combined I still had 4.5 lbs of seafood in the soup overall. We didn’t find fish stock in the stores either, so I bought vegetable stock and added 2 tablespoons of Thai fish sauce to it. The one easy thing about the whole shopping adventure is that Ralph’s had already scrubbed the clams and deveined the shrimp, and the beards were removed from Costco’s mussels since they had been cooked prior to packaging, so with my Food Chopper for the veggies the whole prep was a breeze. All I did was pull the previously sliced peel off the shrimp and snap off the tail; the recipe didn’t say tail on or off so I voted for one less step while eating.
Of course the stores didn’t have fennel, so I grabbed a bulb of anise instead because they’re very similar. I’ve never used that black licorice flavor in cooking before, and slicing the anise gave such a strong aroma of it that I panicked and only used about half of a large bulb, figuring I could always add more but couldn’t take any out once it was in. I added 2 extra garlic cloves because I’m a garlicholic, and it was easy and stinky-finger free rolled in my Garlic Peeler. I also only used half of a white onion (but all 3 shallots). It just seemed weird to use 2 types of onions in such high quantities, I prefer a better balance with onions and garlic. I scooped the tomato paste into the Mini Measure-All Cup so that I could slide the bottom up and pop it out without wasting any. I then used the Micro Scraper to “squeegee” the rest out of the can to save every last bit for another day’s use. Even though we already have crushed red peppers, they are slightly brownish and faded brick red, so I bought a new jar with fabulous bright reds and more heat in the fresher bottle, and naturally I added twice as much. We like our food really hot, but I am a bit worried about whether it’s too spicy for Ryley’s grandparents (we like to share when the recipe has so many servings), so we’ll see what they say about the soup. While I sauteed the onions, I believe I caught Jeremiah crying from across the room, so I threw on my protective goggles to avoid the same fate. Once all the ingredients were simmering together, the whole house smelled amazing.
I baked a french baguette to be able to have some fresh bread with the broth, and it was delicious. We ended up with enough soup to easily feed 6-8 people, and it was so hearty that I was full with one good-sized bowl and a few thick slices of baguette. Needless to say, we skipped grilling the halibut for today. Even after basically skipping lunch and taking all that time and effort during our ingredient scavenger hunt, I was quite content with just enjoying soup for really really reallllllly late lunch (almost 6pm). If you’d like to try it yourself, come on over and grab the last bowlful! Or… go to Giada’s recipe on The Food Network (click that) and let me know how yours turns out! 🙂