For six years, my husband and I lived in the Bay Area near some old, dear family friends. The combination of Portuguese heritage and a home in the hills of Berkeley, meant that the kitchen of our friend’s mom was the place I most wanted to be. Every year during Dungeness crab season, Jan cooked a giant cioppino feast. And aside from Christmas back home in the Midwest, cioppino night was the coziest holiday of the year. A big table covered in newsprint, bowls of steaming crab and shellfish, warm crusty bread, and plenty of California wine kept us all merry until the late hours of the evening.

So today at the grocery store, when I saw a bag of fresh seafood labeled “Cioppino Mix,” I experienced such a wave of nostalgia that before I knew it, I had loaded my cart with a loaf of sourdough, a few bottles of California varietals, and a determination to make the best cioppino this side of the Rockies. I’ll be honest – my cioppino was delicious … it just wasn’t Jan’s.

The Sun Bucket started at 352 C (665 °F).

The base of this cioppino recipe (a conglomeration of many recipes) was 1 onion and 2 shallots, finely chopped and sautéed in 2 T. of olive oil. When these became translucent, 4 roughly chopped cloves of garlic and a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes were added.

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This all hung out in the pot for a minute or two before 1/4 C. tomato paste, 1-28 oz can of diced tomatoes, 1 1/2 C. seafood stock, and 1 1/2 C. dry white wine was added. I put a lid on this and let it simmer for 25 minutes, while I made a Caesar salad (and chicken noodle soup for the nine and under crowd).

When the base of the cioppino had thickened slightly and was bubbling away, I added the Cioppino Mix, which included mussels, clams, shrimp, hake, and crab. It took just a few minutes for the shrimp and hake to be cooked through, and for the mussels and clams to open.

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As I ladled up the cioppino, topped with a little flat-leaf parsley, I drizzled olive oil onto two halves of a round of sourdough. The bread was placed face down on a sheet of aluminum foil on the Sun Bucket, and in less than two minutes was perfectly golden and ready to be rubbed down with a clove of garlic.

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This Sunday dinner of cioppino and Caesar salad was the perfect antidote to missing  friends far away. It’s true that I left my heart in San Francisco, so on my next visit, I’m going to have to set aside some time in Jan’s kitchen and learn to make her cioppino.

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The Sun Bucket was used for 49 minutes and cooked 2.1 kg of food with an approximate caloric content of 1250 calories. Additionally, the Sun Bucket toasted 340 g of sourdough bread which contributed an additional 925 calories to the meal.


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