Take me out to an Italian restaurant and I don’t even need to look at the menu. I will predictably order Cioppino without fail. I have tried many many versions and this quick and easy one was so easy in fact, that I can’t believe I have never made it before, especially considering how mildly obsessed I am with it. I varied a recipe found on Epicurious.com with what I had on hand.
- 1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded and bulb cut lengthwise into 6 wedges
- 1 medium onion, quartered
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
- 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
- 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in juice
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2/3 cup red wine vinegar plus a spoonful of sugar (sub a full bodied red wine if you have a bottle open)
- 4-ounces clam juice (for a $ saver, I just used the juice from the canned clams)
- 1 pound skinless fillets of thick white-fleshed fish such as halibut, hake, or pollack, cut into 2-inch chunks (I used hake)
- 12 oz. canned wild caught clams (because I didn’t want to mess with buying them shelled)
Pulse fennel, onion, and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then stir in chopped vegetables, bay leaves, thyme, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.
Cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes.
Add tomatoes with their juice, water, wine, and clam juice and boil, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in seafood and cook, uncovered, until fish is just cooked through and any shellfish is open wide, 4 to 6 minutes (discard any that remain unopened after 6 minutes). Discard bay leaves.