Christmas Homemade Cioppino
While turkey is a common Christmas dish in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, it is not the main course for many other places in the world. It is traditional for some Roman Catholics to abstain from eating meat or animal fat on Christmas Eve.
In the Catholic Church, the day preceding a major holy day like Christmas is known as a vigil day. In preparation for this holy day, some Catholics would practice abstinence which includes refraining from consuming meat. In lieu of meat they will eat various seafood products such as clams, scallops, and shrimp.
Catholics in Southern Italy enjoy several fish dishes on Christmas Eve. This celebration is known as “The Feast of the Seven Fishes.” Despite the name of this celebration, the number of fish dishes served vary from region to region. Although cod and shrimp are historical highlights to this meal, there are no specific dishes or seafood products that are required to participate in The Feast of the Seven Fishes.
A classic hearty Italian seafood dish that you can include in your Christmas dinner this year is Cioppino! Its richness makes it a suitable dish that brings comfort to all your holiday festivities. One of our favourite Cioppino recipes features frozen argentine shrimp, halibut, manila clams, and mussels!
Your shopping list is as follows, you may already have some of these staples in your pantry and fridge!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 4 large shallots, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried crushed chili flakes, plus more to taste
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 5 sprigs fresh thyme
- Chopped Italian parsley for garnish
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
- 1 1/2 cups dry white wine – such as sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, or pinot grigio
- 5 cups fish stock
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- Keep your mussels, halibut, and clams in the fridge until they need to be cleaned and prepped. Make sure the shrimp is fully thawed before cleaning.
- Soak the clams in freshwater for around 30 minutes, so they expel sand.
- Heat the olive oil in a large and deep soup pot over medium heat.
- Add the sliced fennel, chopped shallots and salt and sauté until the shallots are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the chopped garlic and teaspoon of chili flakes, and sauté for 1.5 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste and then add the canned tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock, dried oregano, thyme and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer.
- Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer the liquid until the flavours combine, which should be approximately 30 minutes.
- While waiting for the broth to simmer, the seafood ingredients should be prepped.
- Drain the water and rinse your manila clams, rinse them a few times to make sure all the sand is gone. Scrub off any remaining dirt on the shells if there is any. Discard any broken or fully open clams.
- To peel the argentine shrimp, firmly grasp the head and twist it off, then peel the remaining legs and body shell as well. To devein the shrimp, make a shallow cut down the middle on the back of the shrimp. Finally, pull out the black intestine.
- Make sure you take out your halibut for 15 minutes before you put it into the broth so it can warm up to room temperature. Cut the halibut into 2inch cubes.
- Lastly, rinse your mussels in freshwater several times, if they have a “beard,” or hair-like fibers attached to them, make sure you pull them off before you cook them. Scrub off any remaining dirt on the shells if there is any. Discard of any opened or broken mussels.
- Add the cleaned clams and mussels to the liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, which is about 5 minutes.
- Add the halibut pieces. Simmer the halibut gently for 3 minutes, then add the argentine shrimp. Cook until the halibut and shrimp are just cooked through, and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, for about 3 minutes longer. Discard the thyme and bay leaf.
- Season the soup to taste with more salt, pepper, and chili flakes as desired. Be careful as the chili flakes are spicy! Garnish with chopped parsley.