Yesterday, in NYC it was a chilly 31 degrees and there were snow flakes flying around. To me that means comfort food and not leaving my apartment. Well, I had no food in my apartment so I had to go outside to get some. My belly was telling me that I should cook some stew. My mind flashed back to 2008, when I for the first time enjoyed Cioppino that a friend had made. It is a delicious Italian seafood stew, tomato based and full of sea delights. I vaguely remember her telling me that she had gotten the recipe from a Martha Stewart cookbook. I asked my husband if she was in town or away for the holidays...of course, how ironic, she is currently in Italy with her husband. So I go on a quest on my computer to find the recipe. I canvass old emails between us, to see if she had given me the goods already. I found nothing. So, Martha Stewart Cioppino I type into the google search bar...and multiple Martha Stewart Cioppino recipe's pop up. Which one is it? Quick Cioppino, Cioppino, or Seafood Stew (Cioppino). I read through each recipe, nothing sticks out making me think, aha! Each had slight variations on ingredients...but what it boiled down to me was: very labor intensive and beyond my skill, somewhat labor intensive and I can tackle this, and finally easy but so much so that I am not sure how good it would taste. So, I opt for the somewhat intensive version of the recipe, making some substitutions...cockles for crab legs, and additions of mussels. I assess what I have in my fridge and on my pantry shelf (I don't actually have a pantry...just a shelf that holds kitchen and cooking items...I live in Manhattan...who actually has room for a pantry!). I make my list of items to be purchased for the stew and the salad I will make, don my warmest clothing and I am off to the store.
I have to go to the bank first to deposit money, so I hit up the Key Foods next door for items that I think would be overpriced at Union Market where I plan to buy the seafood. At Key Foods I buy the crushed tomatoes, dried oregano, bay leaf, thyme (I buy the dried version because I can't remember if the recipe called for fresh), onion, radish, dill, white balsamic vinegar, capers...$30.28. I go to Union Market to purchase the seafood and bread for dipping. I also grab my salad greens, parsley. I stop at the bakery and get a loaf of sourdough, which is round and perfect. Finally, I go to get my seafood. I am dismayed...there are no mussels, and white fish I recognize. And the shrimp is sooo overpriced it makes me want to yell. I get only a pound of cockles here and decide that I have to make the trip to Essex Market. Union Market $33.77...this is getting to be a very expensive meal and I haven't even purchased the bulk of the seafood yet. I leave Union Market, call my husband who was going to meet me to help me carry groceries, to tell him that I have to go to Essex Market to get the rest of the seafood...he can't believe that this new and fancy Union Market did not have the seafood I needed. Ugh..I know. At Essex Market, I find cod, mussels and shrimp...priced reasonably and it all costs $22.89. I leave there and head to the wine store, the recipe calls for a dry white wine. I call my husband and have him meet me there. We purchase a Sauvignon Blanc, $10.38 cheap enough that I don't feel bad adding it to the stew but decent enough in case I want to have a glass. We head home, 4 bags and total spent of $97.32...WHOA! This better be the most delicious meal I have ever made, and give me the power of predicting the future after I eat it.
We hurry home, it is now freezing outside, and the idea of hot seafood stew is really sounding like the right idea. I start making the stew at about 5:30, to be ready for dinner around 8:30...I have never made this before but realize this is still labor intensive...I do have to wash and scrub all the mussels and cockles. Scrubbing those little suckers takes forever! I chop and dice and make the base of the stew, then add the liquids to simmer. Then I add the mussels and cockles...and realize I have a problem. The only mussels available were a bag...which didn't look so big at the store...but in the pot there is no more room for the fish or the shrimp. I try pushing down the shellfish to make some room...there is none. There must be 50 mussels in there...what do I do. I make my husband go out and get another can of crushed tomatoes, add more wine and water. Now, a recipe that would have fed 6-8, is now 10-14...way too much for us to ever finish. After adding the extra liquids I drop in the shrimp and fish. While the stew is cooking, I make the salad...greens, radish, baby heirloom tomatoes, dill, dried oregano with a dressing of olive oil and white balsamic...recipe thanks to my sister.
The stew is done, all the seafood has been cooked appropriately. It smells marvelous, I think my hard efforts have paid off. I toast the sourdough, and get my place settings together. We sit on the couch, bowls in hand. The stew is heavenly, the broth is flavorful and hearty, and the seafood is cooked perfectly. I am proud of myself. Next time, I will remember to buy less shellfish bec