For Christmas Eve this year I decided I’d try my hand at Cioppino. My best friend’s mom always made it for Christmas Eve growing up, with the idea being that you wanted to eat something light the night before the big Christmas feast.
I went to the fish market in Santa Barbara Christmas Eve morning and bought all my seafood fresh, which was an adventure in itself.
I started with this recipe from the Food Network that was featured on Throwdown With Bobby Flay. I used local halibut instead of bass and a combination of littleneck and manilla claims and I added a little saffron to the broth. I also made my own fish stock with this recipe rather than buying it at the store because (a) it was difficult to find at the market, and (b) it wasn’t that difficult to make as long as you don’t mind fish heads. I used halibut bones/head for my fish stock to get a mild flavor and closed the kitchen door when I was making it as to not stink up the house.
I served my Cioppino with the sourdough croutons covered with anchovy paste as the recipe called for (don’t fear the anchovy – it wasn’t overpowering and was actually complimentary) garnished with parsley. I also made an arugula and fennel salad, adapted from this recipe and used wild arugula instead (since that’s all I could find) and I went a little easy on the red onions (since no one wants bad breath on Christmas Eve).
The Cioppino was such a hit with my family that I think it might become our new Christmas Eve tradition for the years to come.