Though I hate making a big deal of my birthday, I love contributing to the fun of others who are up for celebrating. And nothing makes a birthday more special than a special meal.
For the recent birthday I was celebrating with a good friend, something special was in order. She was turning her “scary age.” This particular age is different for everyone. For me it was 30, especially since I never plan on admitting to turning 40. For her, it was 35. To each her own. But because we wanted to make the event special, we decided to try a dish I had never made before.
Celebrating with a new dish is fun. The challenge of the unknown and creating a task that, if successful, will be a knockout dinner makes for a great cooking experience.
Because of where we live, I eat seafood less frequently than I do other proteins. Good seafood is expensive to get here, and since it is already traveling here, you have to be careful to get the freshest possible options and cook them right away. That is why, when I cook with seafood, I feel like I am preparing an unusual meal. I also want to be careful not to mess the dish up as that would be an expensive mistake.
For this dinner we tossed around lots of ideas – lobster, crab, fish. Then, we decided, why not find a dish that combines them all? There is a seafood dish I have had in some restaurants and when done right, just love. Cioppino is an Italian influenced American dish that originated out of San Francisco. It combines all sorts of seafood in a flavorful tomato based broth with hints of anise and white wine. I love it.
Typically you serve cioppino with crusty bread to soak up the sauce and fill it with various sorts of seafood.I found a recipe online from Giada De Laurentis, a famous Food Network chef, that I started with. I adjusted the recipe to fit our taste and base on what good seafood I could get.
I have found an Alaskan source that I trust, FishEx, and ordered fresh king crab and halibut from them. A box was shipped in on the day I was making the meal and the seafood was as fresh as you can get. I also tend to trust the people at the seafood counter at The Whole Grocer and got shrimp that they recommended.
This was a nice choice to cook for a party because, though it took a while to make, I prepared it before everyone got here, cleaned up while it simmered and just had to throw in the seafood at the last minute to finish it. We started with a cheese plate and served the soup on its own, simply with grilled garlic bread. You could do a simple salad to accompany but make sure you save room for cake!