This is the deal. On Friday I am responsible for the dinner and the wine. I can grill, I can roast, stir-fry… re-heat. It’s my call. Sometimes, take-out, or I can pick out a restaurant. Killing a raccoon on Swamp Road in Newtown doesn’t count. And of course, an appropriate wine.
More often then not, grilling is my métier. Our Weber is in use 12 months of the year, and I grill everything… including a raccoon if I bag one. But after awhile grilling does get boring. How often can you enjoy a 2” thick bone-in rib-eye? It would be like opening a bottle of Beaucastel all the time. The special qualities of both food and wine would vanish into the ordinary.
I begin to worry about what I am going to prepare on Friday on Tuesday. Worrying is also my métier. And too often the decision is not reached ‘til 11:45 on Friday morning, somewhere between lap 65 and 100 of the LA Fitness pool.
Tuesday just past, the worrying kicked into high gear. I make my customary mental review: rib-eye? No! Baby backs? Nope. New Zealand lamb chops? Last week. Chicken parm? Not in the mood. Lobster tails? Hmmmmm. I think I am on the right scent! OK… I found the inspiration: Cioppino!! Don’t ask me how my mind works.
Cioppino? I can’t remember when I had it last… or even if I had it before! But I knew of the dish. An Italian version of Bouillabaisse? And I love Bouillabaisse! But maybe I would be out of my depth preparation-and-cooking-skill wise? Certainly it would be more involved than throwing a marinated flank steak on the grill!
Wednesday. Find a recipe. I Google Cioppino and then head to the Foodnetwork.com. Great. Paula Deen has a recipe! Scan the ingredients, scan the steps… and then I locate the golden word: “easy.” Easy? To quote Harry Truman, “I think we have a winner!”
Thursday. Create a shopping list. The wine? I could do this in my sleep! Red or white could work. A Dolcetto D’Alba would be good. So would a Cru Beaujolais. Or a Portuguese blend. But I’m going white… mineral driven, non-oaked. Something from Alsace… either a Pinot Gris or a Pinot Blanc. Or, something from Alto-Adige in Italy. Or, Spain. The whites from Galicia, from Spain’s Atlantic Coast, are stunning. In particular the Albariño’s from the Rias Baixas are meant for seafood! Badda-bing, Badda-boom!
Albariño de Fefiñanes ’10 (Rias Baixas, Spain)
Founded in 1904, Palacio de Fefiñanes is housed inside a spectacular baronial palace which sits on the lovely main square of coastal Cambados. The facility was built in 1647 by Viscount of Fefiñanes Gonzalo Sarmiento Valladares (1583-1659) and is currently owned by Juan Gil Careaga. Palacio de Fefiñanes was the first producer to bottle wine under the D.O. Rías Baixas denomination. Vineyards in the Rias Baixas region are impacted by the wind due to the proximity of the Atlantic Ocean . The climate provides acidity and freshness to the wine. Lovely balance, crisp fruit flavor spiked with minerals of wet stone. Finishing clean and soft.
N.B. Cioppino is not an Italian dish. Its home port is San Francisco. It goes back to the late 1800s and is the ad hoc creation of the Portuguese and Italian fishermen from North Beach. Not technically Italian; but certainly the spirit of the dish is Mediterranean.
½ ounce of Noilly Pratt Dry Vermouth
a goodly amount of ice
4 blue cheese stuffed olives
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery rib, chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 cups canned tomatoes, undrained
½ cup roasted red peppers, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups beef stock
1 cup bottled clam juice
½ pound sea scallops
1 pound firm white fish, cut into 1” pieces (cod, striped bass)
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
24 small clams in the shell, scrubbed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup fresh parsley
crusty bread for serving
Put gin and vermouth into a glass pitcher, fill with ice, stir vigorously while incanting, “You who know all, thank you for providing us juniper and all the other cockamamie ingredients responsible for creating this sacred liquid!” Strain into a pre-frozen Martini glass of admirable size. Skewer the olives on one of those tacky cocktail swords, place in glass. Immediately begin consuming. Now you can begin the food prep, and the cooking!
In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and garlic. Cook about 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft and beginning to brown.
Add the undrained tomatoes, roasted peppers, thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Pour in wine and beef stock. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cook partially covered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the clam juice and continue cooking uncovered for 5 minutes.
Stir in scallops, fish pieces and cook for 5 minutes. Add shrimp and clams. Cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread.
I opted to use an Italian bread which I cut into rather thick slices. I brushed both sides of the bread with a garlic infused olive oil, and toasted the bread on the grill. OK, I admit it: I am a sucker for grill marks! I cut the slices of toasted bread in half, perfect “dunking-in-the-cioppino” size! Next week? Raccoon du Jour… maybe!