As far as I’m concerned, Sundays primarily exist for brunch. Brunch, in turn, entails day drinking. Now, Mimosas are all well and good, but for my money, I want a Bloody Mary (or four). It is practically a salad in a drink and the addition of alcohol is just a welcomed bonus. When making Bloody’s at home, it’s easy to start pouring drinks that are a tad aggressive with the booze to tomato ratio… Basically, don’t feel bad if you pass out by 2:30 PM and fail to resurrect until it’s time to head off to work the next morning. By Monday afternoon you will probably discover your Vodka is gone, but there is still a multitude of that red mix leftover. No worries, I have a solution: Bloody Mary Cioppino.
Cioppino was developed in San Fran some time ago by Italian Americans working in the fishing industry. It is essentially a tomato based stew that makes use of leftover scraps of seafood. OK, that may not sound overly appealing, but you can absolutely use whatever fish and/or crustaceans tickle your fancy. If you are lucky enough to live on or near a coast, take advantage of fresh, local catches. If you live somewhere like the midwest, I apologize (for a multitude of reasons), but you can still utilize whatever is flown in or frozen. Shellfish such as: mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, crab or lobster (if you real fancy) all work in this meal. If you want to add fish filets, I would suggest using something meaty, like sword. Though flaky white varieties like cod can work, they may disintegrate if you cut them too small or stew them too long.
Tying these brilliant concepts together is really very simple, so let’s break it down.
Here’s what you need:
For the Broth
– Splash Olive Oil
– (1/2) Large Sweet Onion (diced)
– (1-2) Tbsps. Garlic
– (1/2) Tbsp. Crushed Red Pepper
– (1) Can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
– (2) Cups Bloody Mary Mix (I’ll give you ideas on how to make this below if you don’t already have a favorite recipe)
– (2) tsp. Capers
– (1/2) Cup Assorted Mediterranean Olives (sliced in half)
– (1/2) Cup Gin (or vodka, but I’m going to sell you on gin)
– (1/2) Tbsp. Horseradish
– (1-2) Lemons &/ Limes (juice)
– (1) tsp. Celery Salt
– Add Hot Sauce, Black Pepper & Olive Oil (to desired consistency & flavor)
– Fresh Parsley (chopped, to garnish)
An Idea for Seafood (Yields 4 Servings)
– (1 1/2) Lbs. Mussels
– (16) Little Neck Clams
– (12) Jumbo Shrimp
Optional “Starch” To Serve Over
– (1/2) Head Cauliflower (roasted & puréed)
– (1/2) Cup Couscous
Firstly, let’s discuss what makes Bloody Mary mix delicious. If you have a recipe or some pre-made mix you love, roll with it. If you need some hints, my key ingredients are fresh herbs like parsley, oregano & cilantro, freshly squeezed lemon & lime juice, diced garlic, smidge of olive juice, and dash of mustard, Worcestershire, & celery salt. Also, add heaps of horseradish, several shakes of black pepper and plenty of hot sauce (if you like it hot). Of course you could use additional spices or omit items above that don’t work for you. This is all extremely to taste. You have no choice but to constantly sample your concoction throughout the mixing process.
Now that you have had your Sunday funday, you have all this mix leftover. Broth time. I like to make it all in a deep sauté pan. Start with your olive oil, garlic, diced onion and crushed red pepper. Let everything brown and become fragrant. Next, pour the contents of the fire roasted tomato can into the pan. Let everything mingle for a couple minutes, then pour in the Bloody mix. It is time to add the olives and capers. I like to ravage the olive bar at the supermarket and leave with a nice variety of Euro delights. Cut the olives in half and simmer everything for a bit. Sidenote: I made this dish for three family members who do not care for olives. They ate all the olives. The briny flavors of the sliced olives and whole capers mellow out when they are slowly stewed in the broth. Happy, harmonious flavors arise and we all win.
It is time to add the alcohol. I am going to go on a quick tangent on why gin is more appropriate than vodka. I know vodka is the traditional liquor in a Bloody Mary, but gin is just better suited for this cocktail. So gin is dominated by juniper berries and other herbal flavors which causes some people say “Eww, it tastes like a Christmas tree.” Number one: shut up, you annoy me. Number two: why is that even a problem? Tomato juice and pine needles are as good a match as any. Trust me, IT JUST MAKES SENSE, but if you prefer to use vodka, I can’t stop you.
Tangent over. You can use any cheap gin since you will be cooking it down anyway. I used Tanqueray because I almost always have a few bottles in stock, but something in a plastic bottle is totally appropriate. Better yet, if you still aren’t really aboard the gin train, get a nip or two. After you inundate the pan with spirits, add a little lemon & lime juice, horseradish and celery salt. As stated above, you can add more black pepper, hot sauce & olive oil, all according to taste and consistency preferences. Keep in mind, once you add the shellfish, they will release additional water and the broth will thin.
As for the seafood, you can obviously use whatever you want. When I first made this dish, I had jumbo shrimp in my freezer, so I thawed, pealed and deveined them. Mussels and little neck clams are inexpensive in my parts, and they absorb flavor like fabulous petite sponges. Clearly this is the perfect trio of sea snacks. Make sure to clean and soak these creatures, especially the mussels. I change the mussels water two or three times to ensure they have spit out as much sand and grit as possible.
Put the little necks in the broth filled pan first, as they take the longest to cook. Cover them for five minutes or so and shake the pan regularly. Then add the mussels, cover and shake. Once everything has opened that is going to open, it’s easiest to transfer all shellfish to a large bowl. Discard any shellfish that did not open, unless if you’re into botulism and overnight stays in hospitals. I tend to overbuy mussels and clams because there are almost always a few failures. Now that you have an open pan, you can easily cook the shrimp, which only take a couple minutes on each side.
This stew could simply be served with charred bread, but to make it more of a complete meal, I served it over couscous and puréed cauliflower. Cook the couscous in a normal fashion. Lightly toss the cauliflower in olive oil, salt & pepper, then roast it at 350 for 25 minutes or until it has a bit of color. Finish by puréeing it in a food processor. It should look similar in size to the couscous. I mixed the couscous and cauliflower together and proceeded to put a scoop on a deep, bowl-like plate. Top this with the broth and seafood. Finish by garnishing with fresh parsley. Say hello to a gorgeous plate and a jovial palate.