Out of necessity -- as in one of us has had to work the next day or it was too far to travel to be with family -- we have bagged the traditional turkey or ham Thanksgiving dinner for the last several years and made a big pot of cioppino seafood stew. We will be doing the same this year and additionally recommend it as a perfectly delicious cure for the post-election blues, as well as a great excuse to avoid having to pass the cranberries to that gloating uncle you just know will be wearing his Make America Great Again baseball cap.
First some background: Cioppino is an Italian-American dish originally made in the late 1800s on fishing boats sailing back to San Francisco, often from Bodega Bay, with the catch of the day, typically scallops, shrimp, mussels, clams and Dungeness crabs with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce. The dish came ashore around the turn of the last century and became a staple in the Italian restaurants in the North Beach neighborhood where I lived in the mid-1970s.
The trick to a great cioppino is to cook the seafood in the broth in the shell, which means you'll need crab forks, crab crackers and a dish for shells. And bibs, because this is a very messy dish.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (1 tablespoon if dried)
Salt and cracked black pepper to taste
1 bay leaf
2 pounds mussels
1 pound scallops
1 1/2 pounds crab legs
1 pound large fresh shrimp, unpeeled
Heat olive oil in a very large, heavy pot over medium-high heat.
Add onion and garlic and cook until soft, stirring frequently.
Pour in tomatoes and white wine.
Season with parsley, basil, salt and pepper and bay leaf.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until liquid is reduced significantly. (How much is "significantly"? Enough to give the stew body but not too much that you can't dip bread in it.) If you're concerned that there isn't enough liquid, add a half cup to a cup of water when no one is looking.
Add mussels, scallops, crab legs and shrimp. Quarter or halve crab legs, if necessary.
Cover pot and cook over medium heat until mussels open.
Scoop portions into large bowls and serve with lightly toasted Tuscan or sourdough bread (Rosemary sourdough is our preference) on the side.
This recipe serves eight, but we typically have a big bowl each, or about two servings apiece, and refrigerate the rest for leftovers.