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The recipe for a great cioppino? Your imagination.

by Russ Parsons
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From the LA Times

ImageI don't think I've ever written about cioppino without getting into an argument. That's probably as it should be.

One of the definitive California dishes, cioppino is a classic soup of fish in a garlicky tomato-wine broth. And that's probably where the agreement ends. Definitive and classic though it may be, there are as many cioppino recipes as there are cioppino cooks.

Maybe even more. Just in my own kitchen, I rarely prepare it the same way twice. Part of this, of course, is because it is based on a mixture of fish and shellfish, and rarely will you go to the market and find exactly the same proportion of the same species you bought last time, all in perfect condition.

Maybe more to the point, this is California, and here we tend to believe that provided a good final dish, how you get there is pretty much your own business. If you need the security of definitive, classic recipes in which every ingredient and garnish is specified with no room for deviation or inspiration, pick up a copy of Escoffier.

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