We try to make this dish at least once a year; almost always when we are at the beach house and have access to the seafood from the Nasugbu market. Over the years, I have learned to rely more heavily on local Batangas produce and catch, and cart less and less food from Manila. But I have had to make adjustments based on what I find, which, more often than not, is an incomplete list of ingredients if you had to strictly follow a preferred recipe. The way I approach this dish today increasingly mirrors the simple roots of the dish, Italian fishermen docking in San Francisco and making a hearty soup out of whatever catch they had that perhaps didn’t sell or wasn’t sought after. While it’s contents change from time to time, it never fails to satisfy…
Last weekend, while hosting friends who hosted us when we were last in San Francisco, I thought giving them a taste of home might be nice after three weeks on the road… I managed to find a single spiny lobster, a bargain at PHP400 for 700grams and just right for four people, some nice white shrimp (suahe), a whole lapu-lapu, squid, some slices of tangigue or spanish mackerel, and bisugo or bream for the fish broth.
I have two previous posts on Cioppino, here and here, and a full recipe is to be had in one of those links. But notice just how different the soup can look, based on what you find in the market, and how fancy you want to get with the presentation! In this version, there were no crabs at all but it still turned out well. Just saute garlic and onion and some fresh tomatoes in some olive oil. Deglaze with white or red wine, add some tomato paste if you have it or just some canned plum tomatoes, a nice homemade fish stock and season to taste. I like to add some crushed dried red chili for heat as well. Once you have the broth to your liking (I like it rather light), then add the seafood and cook until just done. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with some toasted bread brushed with oil and garlic.
If you read through the two other posts, and add the following tips, you should have a great version. I filleted the lapu-lapu rather than putting in whole slices with bones. I sliced the squid into really thin ribbons and added them to the broth last, just seconds before turning off the heat. The lobster was just for a touch of luxury, and everyone just had a bite or two, and if you had crabs, they wouldn’t miss the lack of lobster. Keep tasting your broth to ensure it has enough seasoning. Serve with a refreshing green salad and chat late into the evening… :)