This is a Canadian West Coast classic. Given that it’s a coastal region, it is natural to expect a bounty of finfish and shellfish to punctuate the cuisine of British Columbia. This West Coast tomato-based seafood stew, cioppino, was the way that Italian-American fishers were able to use the remainder of the daily catch that was not able to be sold as part of their repast. The sensibility of these resourceful fishers transcends borders and coastal obligations. There is no fixed recipe; rather, cioppino is a celebration of finfish and shellfish. The tomato broth is punctuated with anise from a generous offering of Pernod and fresh fennel. Use your favourite combination of seafood: If you prefer clams to mussels, or lobster or spot prawns instead of shrimp, customize it to your tastes.
Serves 6 to 8
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large fennel bulbs, thinly sliced; reserve fronds for garnish, if possible
5 large shallots, chopped
2 tsp salt
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes + more to taste
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 oz Pernod
1 L vegetable stock
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 lb mussels, scrubbed, debearded
1 lb uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 lb assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets, such as halibut or salmon, cut into 2-inch chunks
Good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
TIP WHEN BUYING SHELLFISH LIKE MUSSELS OR CLAMS, THEY SHOULD FEEL HEAVY FOR THEIR SIZE. HEAVIER BIVALVES INDICATE A FRESHER PRODUCT.
Heat oil in very large pot over medium heat. Sauté fennel, shallots and salt until shallots are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and 3/4 tsp of the red pepper flakes, and sauté for 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, Pernod, vegetable stock and bay leaves; cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until flavours blend, about 30 minutes.
Add mussels to cooking liquid; cover and cook until mussels just begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add in shrimp and fish. Simmer gently until shrimp and fish are just cooked through and the mussels are completely open, stirring gently about 5 more minutes. Discard any mussels that do not open. Season soup to taste with more salt and red pepper flakes. Garnish with fennel fronds and a drizzle of good-quality extra-virgin olive oil.
Chef ILona Daniel’s West Coast-inspired Nerigoma Nanaimo Bars and Ginger Peach Chocolate Victoria Creams.
Chef ILona Daniel is Harrowsmith’s Food Editor and the founder of Tribe Fresh Events and Consulting, a purpose-driven insights consultancy accelerated by modern approaches to the hospitality industry, immersive experiences, and community and culture development. She has worked on projects around the world and is on the Board of Directors for the Tourism Association of PEI. Chef Ilona is a media personality, and a Culinary Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Canada.