You know those stories you've heard so many times that they become a memory, even though you weren't even there (or born yet)? One of my favorite non-memories is the one my mom would always tell us about Christmas Eve at her house in San Francisco, when my grandpa Albino would make cioppino.
I pictured her as a child in California, still learning her English, watching as my grandfather hummed away in the kitchen--scrubbing mussels and peeling giant shrimp as white wine, onions, tomatoes, and rich fish stock bubbled away together on the stove.
"We'd always have seafood on Christmas Eve," my mother would tell us every year. So we did the same.
Cioppino is an Italian-American dish that originated in San Francisco. How perfect is that? One of the dishes that reminds me most of my Italian grandfather in San Francisco is an Italian recipe that started in the same city he used to make it in.
My brother and I never got to meet our grandfather, but we both feel really strong ties to him, especially in the kitchen. The magic of family and food was not lost on me earlier this week when I made a batch of cioppino in my own kitchen in the San Francisco Bay Area, feeling my family so very far away on the other side of the country. But as I pulled out all the ingredients and poured a glass of La Crema Pinot Gris, it was almost as if any of them could have been there with me, scrubbing mussels and peeling giant shrimp as white wine, onions, tomatoes, and rich fish stock bubbled away together on the stove.
Just a quick note about bread: it really matters. Don't serve this without a crusty loaf of sourdough! It's so good. I like to toast slices of it in the oven and then load the toast with butter before dipping it into the broth. (Did you know that some gluten sensitivities are kind of okay with sourdough? It has something to do with the culture and bacteria involved to make the sourdough, well, sour. Don't take my word for it, just know that I ate three pieces with my cioppino for...breakfast yesterday. And a few sips of wine. Talk about a good start.)