August and September are big birthday months in our family and we usually gather together to celebrate everyone’s birthday in each month with a special dinner. We did that last month ago for the August birthdays but didn’t seem to find time for our September birthdays this year.
Since we weren’t going to have time for a family celebration this month, my niece decided she wanted to make her new favorite dish Choppino for her fathers birthday. My niece Bella is of the “texting generation” and can easily send 2 or more texts before I can answer one…sigh. So after multiple texts and frustration on my part I finally suggested that she come over for dinner and I would teach her how to make Real San Franciscan Choppino, just as I had learned so many years ago.
Over the years I’ve worked and dined at restaurants that had Choppino on their menu, but it was rarely the real thing, being more of a Fugazy style representation of the dish. The big difference in the local Italian style Choppino and a San Franciscan Style Choppino is in how the sauce is made. The origin of this dish is said to come from Ligurian region (Genoa) of Italy, and that the Italian American fisherman from the North Beach area of San Francisco came up with this dish utilizing the catch of the day with a variety of fresh seafood that was on hand. You’ll find versions that contain less seafood and others that contain squid, but the main ingredients of this dish are the shellfish anything else that finds its way into the pot is a bonus!
We had a great time as we worked together in the kitchen, and Bella showed her technical skills by making and Instagram montage of the process. We had a wonderful dinner that night and more than just the dinner was the time spent together in the kitchen, sharing recipes and stories. Bella also learned that that very expensive dinner out could be made for a lot less at home, feeding a family for the price of one dinner. That was the real lesson of the day.
If you’ve never thought of making Choppino, I urge you to try this recipe. It may contain a lot ingredients, but it really is a very simple dish to make and I promise you’ll have one delicious dinner on your table that will impress your family or friends.
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced (core removed)
- 1 large sweet onion, chopped
- 3 large shallots, chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, sliced
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 4 ounces tomato paste
- 1 (26 -32 ounce) can of whole plum tomatoes crushed by hand
- 2 cups dry white or red wine
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 1 dozen small clams, scrubbed
- 1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
- 9 16-20 count shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 9 large sea scallops
- 3 crabs- dungeness preferred, (snow crab, blue claw, or Stone Crab Claws)
- ½ pound of firm fish cut into 3 pieces (optional)
- 1 bay leaf
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like it spicy)
- Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large sauteuse (deep skillet) over medium heat.
- Add the fennel, onion, shallots, and salt and saute until the onion becomes translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
- Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and continue to saute for 2 minutes.
- Add tomato paste, plum tomatoes and all juices, wine, chicken stock, and bay leaf.
- Bring to a light boil, then reduce the heat to simmer and allow to cook for one hour. Stir occasionally
- While sauce is simmering in another saute pan add 2 tablespoons olive oil and sear shrimp, scallops (and fish pieces if used) on both sides, but do not cook fully.
- Remove seafood from pan and place on plate for use later. If you did use the fish pieces you can add them to the sauce now. (do not add the shrimp or scallops at this time)
- In the same pan add a little more oil, clams and mussels. Cover and steam them until they open. (if any of the mussels or clams are open before cooking discard them, they're dead and aren't safe for consumption)
- At about the 45 minute mark of the simmering the sauce, add in the crabs, and the mussels and clams with all the pan juices. Continue to simmer.
- If you are serving your Choppino over pasta you may begin getting the water ready at this time.
- After one hour and your pasta cooking in the last five minutes of cooking, add in the shrimp and scallops.
- Taste the sauce and re-season as needed.
- Serve over pasta and enjoy with a loaf of crusty bread!
Thanks for stopping by today to see my new post. Have a great week my friends!