While made famous on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco cioppino actually has roots from seafood based cuisines all over the world. Italian immigrants most likely made the biggest effort to popularize the dish in California. Although the name sounds intimidating, the dish itself is a snap, easily done in your own kitchen. The class I am scheduled to teach about razor clams has morphed into a class on cioppino, so my free time for at least 5 days has been spent doing research and development on it. A wonderful dish as its intent is to use whats available, its also great utilization for leftovers, or scrap from the day before. Salmon bellies, a few clams and mussels, and some halibut trim is the recipe that I am using tommorow. We are starting with a base stew with razor clams as well. You can make it at home with some tomatoes, wine, onions, shallots, and seafood though. Classically served with a brushetta or crostini and an aioli of some sort, I have chosen to pair it with a saffron aioli, and a brushetta ( a grilled slice of baguette rubbed with garlic and oil). In very classic preparations it is also served with a "rouille" which is a emulsion of bread crumbs, garlic, and oil. I did a ton of research on the rouille and recipes are all over the place. A few of my best textbooks don't even touch on it and a few of the super classical chefs I know hadn't attempted it in so long they couldn't remember what it was, so I opted to stay away from it in this setting.
If you wanted to put it over the top from home I would simply roast some tomatoes and garlic and then puree and cool them (i have talked about that before). For the actual dish talk to the person behind the counter at your grocer to see if he has some salmon bellies, or any sort of white fish trim available. They most likely will, and most likely will sell it to you on the cheap. On the flip side though some sort of clam, mussel, or oyster is almost required. Your dish will be better with the release of juice from inside them, but you don't need many at all. Think 4 oz of fish (1-2 oz chunks of as equal size and shape as possible), a few clams, and a mussel for each person.
Saute your aromatics, add wine and allow to come to a simmer, add your roasted tomato sauce and clams. Cover. Allow to cook on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. Open, stir, and add your fin fish. Cover. Allow at least 2-3 more minutes of cook time. Check to make sure your shellfish have opened, if so remove from heat and plate.
Perfect for a cool fall afternoon or evening, served with an aioli to dip in, and some bread to sop up the liquid. If i have a chance I will try to get a picture of my final dish on Saturday, but my approach is a bit more complicated than this, and i am trying to make and explain how to make an aioli, by hand, in front of 15 people while this happens. Good times will be had by all.