Thursday, December 22, 2011


One of my favorite Italian dishes is a seafood stew that varies region-by-region.  I have made a couple versions of this stew, inspired by the brodettos of Abruzzo.  The Tuscans have their own version called "Cacciucco" (kah-CHOO-koh).  I thought it was time to learn a little more about the Tuscan stew and try to make it for myself and my beautiful Angel, Clare.

The word "Cacciucco" comes from the Turkish word, Kϋçϋk, which means "small."  This is a reference to the fish used to make the dish, all of which are usually small, boney fish.  These fish are the pesce povero or "poor fish," which were left over from the catch.  The fish were left over because they were too small or too boney to sell in the market. The pesce povero usually included Black Scorpionfish, Atlantic Stargazer, Dogfish and Weeverfish. 

Few of those fish are available around where I live, so the suggested fish for this recipe include sole, mullet, catfish, eel, hake, monkfish, and John Dory.  Many of these fish -- such as sole, hake and monkfish -- are endangered because of overfishing or are unsustainable because the fishing methods used to catch the fish result in an unacceptable amount of bycatch or environmental damage.  I try hard to make sure that I follow the guidelines for sustainable seafood in my cooking.  Therefore, for my Cacciucco, I decided to use Rockfish and Vermillion Snapper, both of which have been designated as sustainable. I also used some squid and some cherrystone clams.  This dish was very good and, like the brodettos, I will definitely make it again.

Adapted from LivornoNow
Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds of fish and shellfish
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, sliced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 small handful of parsley, chopped
1 can of San Marzano, whole peeled tomatoes 
8 thick slices Italian bread
Extra virgin olive oil
1 bayleaf
Chile pepper
2 teaspoons of vinegar
1 glass dry red wine (e.g. Chianti)
Salt and pepper
2 cups of seafood broth

1.  Prepare the seafood.  Wash all the fish. Clean the squid and wash shellfish.  Wash shellfish carefully and place in a large pan to open them.  Conserve the liquid and half of the shell with the clam or mussel.

2.  Prepare the base of the Cacciucco.  In a large frying pan, heat olive oil and lightly fry the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and parsley, all finely chopped. Add the chile, thyme, sage and bayleaf.

3.  Add the squid, followed by the vinegar, red wine and tomatoes.  Add the squid to the base and cook for a few minutes.  Add the vinegar. When the vinegar has evaporated, add the red wine and cook til this has evaporated as well. Add the tomatoes, chopped, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4.  Add the remaining ingredients.  When the  squid is tender, add the fish stock (strained), the remaining fish, and in the last few minutes the shellfish.  Cook until the fish and shellfish are cooked through, with the fish about to flake apart and the shell fish are opaque/

5.  Plate the dish.  Toast the bread and rub with garlic. Place the slices in the bottom of a dish and pour the Cacciucco over the bread. Serve hot.  (there should be plenty of sauce, but the Cacciucco should not be too liquid).


For more information about Cacciucio, check out LivornoNow.

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