Introduction: Cioppinot (Californian Seafood Stew With Pinot Noir)

Nearly every part of the world that resides on a coast has their version of a seafood stew made with the catch of the day along with regional vegetables and herbs.  Just to name a few of the most known; bouillabaisse in France, brodetto in Italy, caldo de mariscos in Mexico, and cioppino in California.  My version of cioppino is made with Californian pinot noir, whose light body, fruity flavors, and moderate acidity complement the delicate flavors of seafood.  Don't get stuck in the old golden rule that only white wines can be paired with seafood!

Step 1:

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup diced shallots
6 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup California pinot noir (I prefer Bridlewood from Monterey County)
1/2 cup canned vegetable, fish, or light chicken broth (this is one dish that will not benefit much from your full flavor homemade stock).
4 oz (half bottle) clam juice
2 x 14oz canned diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. freshly grated mandarin rind
Juice from above mandarin
1 tsp. saffron threads
1 tsp. red chili flakes (optional)
1.5 lbs fresh or frozen shellfish (calamari, shrimp, mussels, clams, octopus, scallops, pieces of crab... basically whetever you can get your hands on)
1.5 lbs firm, white fillets of fish, chopped in 1 inch pieces (red snapper, striped bass, tilapia all work   well)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
Fresh chopped basil and parsley to serve
Toasted sourdough to serve

Large saute pan with tight fitting lid
Sharp knife
Wine opener and wine glass for yourself

As you may have already noticed, you are only going to use 2/3 cup of that pinot you just opened, so you may as well pour yourself a glass as you are getting all the ingredients prepared.

Step 2: Start Cooking!

Heat your large skillet over moderately high heat then add olive oil.  When the oil starts to shimmer, add the 2 tbsp. butter.  Once the butter foams and subsides, add the shallots and cook until translucent, approximately 2 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute more.  Add the red wine and let reduce by half, about 5 minutes.  So far so good, might as well pour yourself another glass of that pinot!

Step 3: Get Your Stew On!

Now that your red wine has reduced and you have finished the wine in your glass, add chicken stock, clam juice, tomatoes, thyme, parsley, basil, bay leaves, mandarin rind and juice, saffron threads, salt and pepper to taste, and crushed red pepper (if using... and I hope you are).  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. 
At this point it is crucial to pour another glass of the wine for yourself as you have 30 minutes of nothing to do.

Step 4: Bring the Seafood to the Party!

Add the shellfish to the stew and cover.  Cook for 5 minutes.  Discard any mussels or clams that did not open and add the fish chunks and the remaining 2 tbsp. butter.  Mix well, cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, finish off that bottle of red.  For authenticity purposes, you should swig the wine straight from the bottle.

To Plate:
Nothing special here, just ladle the stew into bowls and add some fresh chopped parsley and basil. Serve with toasted sourdough or some boiled potatoes.  Enjoy!

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