Tales From The Cook: CIOPPINO

How Crab Cove Got Its Name
Neptune Beach was an amusement park on the shore of San Francisco Bay in the city of Alameda, California built in 1917. It quickly became a place where scores of cash-rich San Francisco tourists would come for amusement. It was a happy place until one day in June of ’39 when several people went missing.
It was rumored an MP spotted a monster along the shore during a routine patrol. He tried to shoot it, but not one of his bullets touched it. Scared to all heck, he retreated back to base, leaving his rifle behind, claiming the monster ate it. When asked of the purported monster the Navy denied any such occurrence.
At first, residents flocked to Neptune Beach in hopes of catching a glimpse of the creature. When no monster was found, many dismissed it as a hoax to attract visitors, but the disappearances continued.  Only a few brave residents dared to continue to swim the waters of the abandoned park.
Mayor James N. Eschen became tired of all the gum bumping. He warned thrill seekers and mystery solvers the monster could swim faster than a horse could gallop, it liked to sneak up on unwary swimmers and blow water at them. The ones it didn’t carry off to eat that is.
He was also determined to set things straight; the only real monster was over in Germany. He devised special swimming trunks, ones he said would protect him from any nonsense he might find, and waded out to wait for the monster of Alameda.
It didn’t take long, the monster grabbed hold of his leg and pull him under. It was as big as a house and hard as a rock. He pounded on its shell and flipped it over. He tried to twist its legs in a Texas Clover Leaf, but it had too many. The monster gave him a cactus elbow to the face and pinched his Alameda between its terrible claws. Eschen struggled with a bubbly roar of pain. The fight carried on for hours up and down the streets, cracking the pavement and smashing houses. Bloodied and battered, he grew tired. The monster nearly had him, a dire situation indeed.
Using the last ounce of strength, he flung the monster over his shoulder high into the air. It came down to Pucci’s landing, splashing right into a giant crab steaming kettle. Mayor Eschen saved the town.
The people of Alameda rejoiced and celebrated with the world’s first and largest cioppino ever made. However, the battle was so destructive, Eschen had to sell off all the amusement rides to cover the damages, leaving an empty cove.

Cioppino is a fish stew considered to have originated in San Francisco, California, but Alamedian’s know better. It is an Italian-American dish and is related to various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine.

5 large garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onions, finely chopped
1 Bay leaf
1 teaspoon FRESH oregano
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup tomato sauce
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1 (28- to 32-ounces) can crushed plum tomatoes, drained, reserving juice, and chopped
2 cups fish stock

1 crab legs and all
18 small clams
1 pound skinless halibut fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound jumbo shrimp (16 to 20), shelled (tails and bottom segment of shells left intact) and deveined
3/4 pound sea scallops, tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

Cook garlic, onions, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes with salt and pepper in oil in an 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until onions are soft and translucent. Hit the pot with wine and boil until reduced by about half, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, fish stock, and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While stew is simmering, snap crab legs at the segments and split open with kitchen scissors. Quarter the body and clean out the gills. Add crab pieces and clams to stew and simmer, covered, until clams just open, 5 minutes, checking every minute after 5 minutes and transferring opened clams to a bowl. (Discard any unopened clams.) Add the fresh oregano. Lightly season fish fillets, shrimp, and scallops with salt and add to stew, then simmer, covered, until just cooked through about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf, then return clams to pot and gently stir in parsley and basil.


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