Shawn Giordano, a private chef for a family on New York's Upper East Side, perfected the craft alongside Wolfgang Puck. Giordano started at Spago Beverly Hills, then continued at several other restaurants owned by Puck. When he's relaxing at home, Shawn likes to prepare dishes that remind him of his childhood in the Hudson Valley, where "everything was homemade." His Italian-American father even pressed grapes to make wine for the family.
Cioppino is a hearty seafood stew developed in San Francisco more than a century ago. Some say the name derives from the phrase "chip in," because Italian fishermen working in the Bay Area were asked to contribute their catch of the day to make the stew. The more accepted version, though, is that the name comes from the Genovese word
, meaning chowder. Cioppino is an ideal winter dish -- hearty and comforting, but lighter than many meat-based stews. And it never fails to impress dinner guests with its range of rich flavors, textures and colors.
Cioppino takes about 30 minutes to prepare. The recipe below is Shawn's version of the traditional stew, and it serves four.
3 dozen little-neck clams
3 dozen mussels
1 pound medium-size shrimp
1 pound large scallops
1 filet of scrod or halibut, about 10 oz., cut into 6-8 pieces
4 parsley sprigs, 3 thyme sprigs
2 leeks, sliced into ½-inch pieces (white portion only)
¼ cup water
2 cans white cannellini beans
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1 white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic bulb (only 3 cloves needed, but it might be easier to roast the whole bulb)
2 raw garlic cloves
1 large can (2 cups) plum tomatoes
1 cup olive oil.
1 tbsp butter
Splash of white wine or sherry vinegar
Salt and red pepper flakes to taste
Roasted garlic: in a small pot add 1/4 cup olive oil and 1 garlic bulb. Slow roast on medium-low heat until golden brown. Let cool and remove shell from cloves.
Leeks: in a small pan, heat 1 tbsp butter and ¼ cup of water, add 2 sliced leeks and cook on medium-low heat until tender.
Beans: Using a blender, puree 1 can of white beans.
Clams: place clams on a sheet tray, add a splash of white wine or sherry vinegar. Take 2 smashed raw garlic cloves (smash with back of knife or palm of hand) and 3 sprigs of thyme, and spread around the clams. Cover with tin foil and cook in the oven for 5 minutes on high heat. Save the clam stock.
In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp olive oil. Add chopped onion and red bell pepper, stirring at medium-high heat for about 4 minutes until translucent and soft. Add leeks, some red-pepper flakes (optional) and three chopped roasted garlic cloves.
Add the clam stock and two cups of plum tomatoes, smashing them inside the pan with a wooden spoon. After about 2 minutes, remove from heat and cover while the rest of the seafood is cooked separately.
In a medium pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil, add shrimp and cook for about 4 min on high heat. Rinse pan or use a new one to heat 1 tbsp olive oil, add scallops and cook on high heat for about 3 min. until lightly brown. Repeat steps with pieces of scrod (or halibut).
Back to the main pot, add mussels and cook for 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Fold in bean puree and the other can of beans, and cook for another minute. Then add clams, scallops, shrimp and fish, cooking briefly until hot. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and highlight with a dash of lemon-infused olive oil (just squeeze the juice from the half lemon into the oil). Add salt and pepper to taste.
Voila! Best enjoyed with fresh, crusty bread.
Paola Singer is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, Newsday and Hemispheres magazine.