In Northern California we usually call crab and shellfish stew Cioppino. However, most recipes don’t call for a pinch of saffron, which I find an important element. Whatever you call it, the dish is the traditional Christmas Eve meal around our house. We were happy to see crabs available this year, even though they came from the Central Coast instead of the Golden Gate.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • zest from 1 medium orange
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed
  • 1 pinch saffron threads
  • 1 pinch chile flakes
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken or fish broth
  • 3 crabs, cleaned and cracked
  • 12 clams, rinsed
  • 12 shrimp, shelled
  • 1 pound halibut, cubed
  • parsley for garnish


  1. Heat olive oil in pan and cook onions until soft, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add orange zest, fennel seed, saffron, garlic and chile flakes and cook for another minute or two.
  3. Add tomato sauce and stock and cook for 15 minutes or so, until smooth.
  4. Add crab, shrimp, clams and halibut and cook until clams open and the shrimp have turned pink.
  5. Serve in individual bowls with parsley.

Serves 6

Crusty French bread and Taft Street Chardonnay and Pinot Noir make this a memorable Holiday Feast!