The Cioppino Smackdown

OMG. What a night we all had. It went something like this. 21 eaters, 18 judges, 3 cooks of cioppino. 3 salad makers, a zillion bottles of vino…and two desserters!! But only one winner.

 

 
This was a great party idea. The contest got everyone in the mood for raspberries…both verbal and then real (over lemon ice cream!).

Cook number one was Jeff.

 
Cook number two was Larry aka Lorenzo.

 
And moi (cook number three). Since you all know what I look like, here is our group pic before the dinner was served.
I decided to serve the salad as an appetizer/salad course. Followed by the cioppino (one at a time) with the fresh homemade bread ala Bevalina. Her she is!
We didn’t give a prize for the best dressed…but if we had, she would have won!!

So…we ate the salads and then began lining up for the piece de resistance(s). Yummy.

Cioppino is basically a seafood stew and was originally contrived as a way to use up stuff (my theory anyway). As cooks it is handy to learn how to use up stuff. Limp piece of celery in the frig? Throw it in? Fennel bulb been sitting there for a week? Throw that in. Carrot going a bit soft on you? Another candidate for soup. In this case, however, I’ll bet we cooks use new stuff. I did.

Fish. That’s another matter. Fish cannot be over the hill…it needs to be fresh, fresh, fresh. Speaking for myself, I bought a fresh cooked, cleaned and cracked dungeness crab and came home and picked out all the meat. It was all I could do not to eat it here and there. Dungeness is simply the best…fresh only. Not frozen. Not canned. Fresh. Cioppino does not require crab. It could have just firm fleshed fish. Or it could just have clams, mussels, shrimp. Heck, I guess you could throw in anything from the sea. What a fabulous dish. Fish floating in a tomato based broth which often times includes copies amounts of wine, basil, oregano, thyme, butter, olive oil and all the veggies such as those mentioned above. Or any other thing, I suppose.

The Soup line:

 

 
The bread was fabulous. Ciabatta and caramelized onion bread…yummy, yummy for the tummy.

And did I mention all the fun that was had? Lots to talk about with lots of people because one of the requirements was that between serving, people had to get up and move so that the conversations got “shook up”. Or is that “shaken up”? Not sure which was is more correct but you get the drift. I highly recommend this strategy for a big dinner party because it gives everyone an opportunity to talk with different people all night long. And since there were a few couples that were new to the group…it worked like a charm.
Then there were the cleaners-uppers. Oh, bless them. Washing, drying…making our life easier. Not expected but truly appreciated. What a great group.

Then came the voting…a secret ballot. There was an uprising brewing…some said the cioppinos were all good and that voting should not take place. Those were the politically correct people, I presume. There was also a group that said, “We have to vote. There’s a trophy!” So the group voted and Lorenzo won the smackdown. His cioppino was zesty and the group ate it up, if you’ll pardon the pun. So, he brought the trophy and he took it home. As it should be (gggggghhhhhhrrrrrrr).
So…what’s next? A chili cook-off? Perhaps. Patricia volunteered her kitchen for the next competition. How fun will that be?
Here’s the trophy that Larry earned (and bought!!).

We were saying our goodbyes and here came the Watts. They had to attend another party that night but they came over after their earlier party and brought some fabulous port with them. How fun that they came over to have some fun!! So we sat around and talked until Rayman started falling asleep (some might say pass out!). He did revive himself and about 15 minutes after everyone was gone, I found him on bended knee cleaning the kitchen floor. Really? Really. I immediately accused him of martyrdom and urged him to go to bed…if he could stand up to do it. Too funny.
Excuse me folks, but my mom didn’t even mention me. I put on a tie and was the perfect little doggie for the occasion. And I might add that I stole the show, in my opinion. And I helped out too. Whenever something in the kitchen hit the floor, I was there to help clean up. I sat when asked, I got along with everyone, I even sat quietly in Laurie’s lap for a long time. So, tell me, what is a puppy to do to get properly recognized?
“Beau. Get away from that computer”. Hi, I’m back. Here’s Beau in his party clothes. Thought you’d like to see him too. He was there and was the on his best behavior all evening. He won over some hearts!!

 

Ciao!! Now, on to the next party!!

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