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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    13 Discussions

    Thank you for posting this! Looks great. Will be trying my hand at making this for a Valentine's Day dinner for my wife. :)

    I was wondering if there is something I can substitute the wine for? I don't drink and no one else in my family does. It's also expensive to buy a whole bottle for just 3/4 cup.

    1 reply

    I know it's been a while but, if you're still interested, you can get a bottle of "Two Buck Chuck" - Charles Shaw - at Trader Joe's. I don't know if they make a Pinot, but you could sub with another red wine. That's about as far away from the recipe as you want to get, though; if there is a good substitute for wine in a recipe, I haven't found it. The flavour it adds to the dish is definitely worth the $2. (the flavour in the glass, however, is not)


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent recipe. I tried it tonight and everyone loved it. I didn't drink as much pinot as the recipe called for but it came out alright anyway :)


    8 years ago on Step 4

    This looks like an awesome stew, any hints on getting my octopus a bit more tender? And, would a Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir work OK in this?

    4 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the feedback! Sure, any pinot from California that you like to drink will work. Slicing the octopus tentacles in very thin cross-sections and adding at the very end (after the fish) will result in less-chewy octopus. Not by much though. If you are really determined, you can braise the octopus for 2-3 hours at 200 F to tenderize, however you will lose flavor.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks for the ideas, I think since, and let's be honest with ourselves', octopus doesn't have a tremendous amount of flavor to begin with I will go with the braising idea and do it in even more great California red wine. My guests always expect some sort of shock value in my cooking and the octopus add the visual shock. We east coasters don't normally get that mollusk to play with or eat.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I have heard that freezing and defrosting Octopus does the trick. The Japanese pound it with a daikon, that may be an old wives tale, or not, I've never tried it.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I know the Greeks will literally pound adult octapi on concrete to tenderize them. I've used a meat malete on smaller ones to pretty good results. The stuff I currently have to use is frozen and chopped so pounding it isn't very practicle.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    ooh, i Fav'd this one, to save the recipe for pay day. yumm.
    if i had tried to make similar just from my imagination, i prolly wouldve added the seafood at the same time as the stock, instead of simmering and cooking in steps, and overcooked the seafood. thank you for the lesson!