Because there is really no authentic version of cioppino, I decided that the best route was to create a recipe that could be anything for anyone, easily customized to your preferences.
Start the cioppino base with fat – either butter or olive oil – and spice from dried chiles or chopped fresh jalapeños (I like using both).
Next comes the tomato sauce or tomato paste and/or canned tomatoes, then clam juice or fish stock.
[…] for spice you could use a ¼ teaspoon of chile flakes and ¼ teaspoon chopped jalapeños; for shellfish you could use 3 pounds of crab plus 2 pounds clams and 1 pound shrimp.
¼ to ½ teaspoon spice (cayenne, chile flakes, chopped jalapeño pepper, black pepper, saffron threads soaked in warm water)
2 to 4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (reserve 1 tablespoon for garnish), or 1 to 2 teaspoons dried herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, fennel fronds)
2 tablespoons tomato paste 28 -ounce can tomato product (whole canned tomatoes, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce)
6 to 7 pounds shellfish (cooked, cleaned, and cracked crab; clams; mussels; bay scallops; peeled or unpeeled large shrimp; calamari, bodies sliced)
1 pound white fish (California sea bass, black cod, true cod, halibut), skinned and chopped into 1-inch chunks
In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot, heat the fat with the spice briefly, then add the aromatics, garlic and herbs.