My dinner there was just as spectacular as it had been when I saw it on tv. I sat at the counter and could watch the chef prep, cook and serve my cioppino. I'm not going to extol the virtues of it's wonderful flavor at length here. Plenty of other's have been more eloquent than I can be on that head.
I like authentic food and write about my philosophy of what makes food authentic at this post. As another foodie writes about seafood soups at Cioppino vs Cacciucco = Cioppucco - a Tuscan Foodie recipe, I won't go much further on that head. He's Italian and can write from a place I cannot begin to go. But, dear reader, bear with me, the last-little-bit-is-at-hand.
Saddened by the passing of this fabulous restaurant, and desirous of having some cioppino, I took to the 'net to locate Little Joe's cioppino recipe. Voila! It's not on the 'net. I got confused and quickly recovered when I located the cookbook Little Joe's Italian Cookbook by Franco Montarello. My local library has a copy and I eagerly opened the book to the section on SEAFOOD, only to find that there was no cioppino recipe. There is a caciucco (fish stew) recipe. As it is most reminiscent of what I ate, I reproduce it here, adding from memory of over 20 years ago of what I saw prepared for me.
The recipe says that the secret to this dish is to not let any one fish flavor overpower the others. Oh! and lastly, by way of preface, caciucco is to Italy as bouillabaisse is to France.
The thing about this dish is that it is best made in a restaurant. I'll explain in a moment. At Little Joe's, it was made individually for each customer. So to speak, one-at-a-time, or each dish was made in it's own sauté pan. I say it's a restaurant specialty as you need a stock for it. Restaurants don't throw food away, scraps are thrown into the simmering stock pot. As time goes by the stocks get richer and richer and you cannot do that in your home. However, as I much miss eating this dish, I'm making a necessary sacrifice to obtain it. I have a fish market near me and I'm thinking maybe they would set aside some fish bones and heads and scraps. I would make a court bouillion with those bits. That will suffice for a quality stock.
Caciucco (Fish Stew)
1 preboiled, cracked Dungeness crab
7 medium size shrimp
2-3 ozs. Rock Cod (any rockfish will do)
3 tbs olive oil
1 tbs minced garlic
1/3 c. white wine
1 cup fish stock
1 c. marinara sauce
Heat a 10" sauté pan and add the olive oil. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the garlic and sauté 30 to 40 seconds. Add the fish and seafood. Raise the heat and sauté three to four minutes until the rockfish is partially cooked. Add the wine, stock and marinara sauce. Bring to a simmer on high heat, reducing to about 1 cup of liquid remaining. (you can ballpark this reduction). Once the mussels and clams have opened, pour over linguine or angel-hair pasta or rice. (gee should I have said risotto?)
At Little Joe's, I saw them add the wine, tip the pan to catch the wine on fire and then add the remaining liquids. This necessitates have the sauté pan over a high flame.
Serve in a soup bowl.
Above is for one serving.
Below is the recipe given for Little Joe's tomato sauce.
2 qts. crushed tomato in heavy puree (this is something only a restaurant can buy) See why here, at the bottom of the page.
2 qts. chicken broth (again, think of all the chicken scraps tossed into a stock pot, refilled with water and more chix, every day)
4 stalks celery
3 onions, minced
1 tsp. rosemary, dried
1 tbs. oregano, dried (preferably not Mexican oregano)
4 bay leaves
2 tbs. chopped, fresh basil
1/4 c. garlic, minced
2 tbs. black pepper, ground
1/3 c. salt
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. cornstarch
1/2 c. water for cornstarch, above
grated parmesan cheese
Combine the crushed tomato, chicken broth, celery and onion, rosemary, oregano, bay leaves, basil, garlic, black pepper, salt and olive oil in a stock pot. Simmer 2 to 4 hours, slightly covered [slightly covered addition by yours truly Secret_Ingredient]. At the end of the simmering, mix the water and cornstarch and add to the pot, stirring to mix well. Use with pasta of choice and top with grated parmesan cheese.
8 to 10 portions.
I wrote about the Tuscan guy, above. He sagely points out that this type of fish dish is made with the stuff the fisherman cannot sell. The off-fall. He goes on to point out that the next time you pay $30 or 25€ for the dish to remember that it's supposed to be peasant food, not some hoity-toity dish of danties for the uninformed. (I'll close with:
As it's unfortunately July 2016 and the [confound them] Presidential election season is upon us, here in the U.S.A.)
Don't be a low information foodie.