Exiled from France in his mid-twenties, Serge filled his days cooking at the fish market, drinking light beer, smoking cigarettes and ingesting other unmentionables that kept him in a constant cartoonish state. He spoke in an almost unrecognizable accent that landed somewhere between French, English and gibberish. He was moody and funny and brilliant. When I was 16 I was hired at the same fish market and worked there for six years. To this day it was the best job of my life. The entire time, Serge sported a curly salt and pepper mullet, an “FBI” hat, was never sober and always awesome. One early morning while driving to work I saw him walking along the center divide of a busy two-way street pointing and yelling up to at the sky wearing a bright yellow Coast Guard vest and no pants. If you knew him, you wouldn’t necessarily be surprised.
I don’t remember Serge’s last name, but I remember him yelling “ze Adams!” when I would do something wrong. So I would constantly stick to cooking the few items on the menu that I knew I couldn’t fuck up. Namely Cioppino. Cioppino hails from San Francisco in the turn of the century as a seafood stew the Italian and Portuguese fishermen would make on the boat to fill their bellies and to keep them warm. The tomato and vegetable base was made ahead of time and they would simply add their catch of the day — which typically included crab, shrimp, mussels and fish.
Serge, this one is for you.—Adam Warren
INGREDIENTS: (Serves 6)
• 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 yellow or white onion, chopped
• 3 large shallots, chopped
• 4 to 5 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
• ¾ bunch parsley, chopped
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1 28 to 32oz can of peeled whole tomatoes
• 1 ½ cup white wine
• 5 to 6 cups fish stock or clam juice
• 1 bay leaf
• ½-1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 lb. manila clams (or similar type), scrubbed
• 1 lb. mussels, scrubbed and de-bearded
• 1 pound raw med-large shrimp (peeled & deveined, tail on)
• 1 – 1 ½ lb. assorted fish (halibut, salmon, shark or other firm fish work best). Cut to equal sized 2 inch cubes
• Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, shallot, salt, ½ of your parsley and sauté until onion softens (about 7 to 8 minutes).
• Add garlic and ½ of your red pepper flakes and sauté for another couple minutes. Deglaze the pan by adding in white wine.
• Add tomatoes and their juices, breaking up the tomatoes loosely with your hands as they go in the pot.
• Add the fish stock/clam juice and simmer for 30 min.
• Add the clams and mussels and cook (covered) until they are just starting to open up — about 5 minutes. Then add in the fish and shrimp last and cook just until they are not translucent in the middle, another 5 mins on an easy simmer should do it. Throw out any mussels or clams that don’t open up, they are not your friends.
• Season to taste with salt and pepper and any extra red pepper flakes for some heat.
• Serve in a large bowl garnished with the rest of your fresh parsley and some crusty bread to dip along with everything
If you are a seafarer, cold weather surfer or craving a bright, hardy and warming dish during the winter then give this one a go. You can add pretty much any vegetable (zucchini, celery, carrot, etc) and all kinds of seafood will work including squid, lobster and crab.
I like to drink either an ice cold Anchor Steam or a glass of red wine with this meal – but for Serge’s sake, I recommend a can of Coors Light and no pants.