Cioppino Angel Hair Pasta

Posted on Feb 20, 2012

Big week here at the Cooper-Mendoza household! Orville booked a Broadway show that goes into rehearsals, well today! We’re living the dream this week, and so we decided to celebrate with a wonderful dinner out. Our choice finally came down to sushi or steak frites, and steak frites won because I wanted to get a bottle of wine with dinner, and nothing says “a bottle of wine” like steak (at least to me, although pretty much everything says “a bottle of wine” to me, so I guess this wasn’t much of a deciding factor.)

We decided to revisit Anthony Bourdain’s old home base,  Brasserie Les Halles. We’d last visited it a few years ago with our friends Brian and Jennie Brick on one of their visits from the Bay Area. We had a wonderful time then, and since we were craving steak frites and their steak frites are incredibly affordable (and delicious) this was a no brainer.

We got there and ordered a bottle of the house red (a nice burgundy), the onion soup, a half order of the mussels in bacon & mushroom cream, and the steak frites. “Gee, that seems like a lot of food,” you say? Well, it seemed a perfectly plausible meal at the time we ordered it, but the evening was young and we’d both just done our daunting P90X workouts, so we were famished!

The soup and mussels arrived together, and not a moment too soon. I was barely able to keep from buttering and devouring the whole bread basket and washing it down with the whole bottle of wine, so having the real food show up saved me from making a drunken spectacle of myself. Soon, I was shuttling mushrooms and bacon and cream to my mouth using the convenient mussel shells, and sopping my bread in that amazing nectar, when suddenly it hit me! I’d had this before. And not just these mussels (Les Halles has about six different mussel preparations), but I realized that I’d already eaten this entire meal – the soup, the mushroom-bacon-cream mussels, the steak frites, AND the crème brulee and molten chocolate cake I was already planning to order for dessert after a quick look at the online menu before I left home. Oh, and the Brasserie Les Halles house red, too. It was the exact same meal I’d had when I was there with Orville and Brian and Jennie. Wow, #predictablemuch?

O and I shared a laugh, then brought out our dual iPhone 4s’ and immediately texted/Facebooked/checked in with Jennie to share our lack of adventurousness and to let them know we were thinking of them very fondly just then. We raised our glasses and toasted Orville’s good fortune (and mine, since we’re a pair) and our good-but-absent friends on the other coast. Then we tucked into a lovely meal. And yes, about halfway through our steaks, we discovered we were stuffed. But that didn’t stop us from licking our plates clean, ordering the dreamt-of crème brulee and molten chocolate cake, and polishing those off as well! We were bursting at the seams on the subway ride home. But celebrations like that don’t happen every day (oh, would that that were the case, right?) so we felt totally justified in our gluttony.

BTW, the show is Peter and the Starcatchers, which starts previews on March 28th, and he’s understudying FIVE of the principal roles! It’s a transfer of the super-successful production last year at New York Theatre Workshop (where RENT began its life), so we’re hoping for a healthy run, full of bills paid on time and maybe even a vacation (our first in MANY years). Fingers crossed!

But hey – back to My Tiny Kitchen! This was dinner tonight – angel hair pasta with a spicy red cioppino-inspired seafood sauce, along with a garlic-y bacon & cheddar scone. Thinking of Jennie and Brian made me think of San Francisco, which made me think of one of my favorite SF treats, Cioppino. For those of you who don’t know, cioppino is a soup of loads of seafood in a spicy tomato soup. I decided to thicken it up and serve it over angel hair pasta, hence my Cioppino Angel Hair Pasta! This was actually my first time working with squid. I bought them cleaned, so all I had to do was cut them into rings and subdivide the  tentacles (my favorite part–sorry if you’re in the “no tentacles, please” camp! But if you are, most fish counters will give you bodies with none of those disgusting grapplers if you ask nicely). I know well enough that the secret of all seafood–DON’T OVERCOOK IT–applies especially to squid and shrimp, and the 2-3 minutes I let it simmer was perfect! (Don’t worry, I put the all-important timing of those last four minutes in a special note in the recipe.)

Oh, and the scones are reminiscent of the cheddar biscuits served at a certain national seafood casual dining establishment, but mine are better. Because there’s bacon, duh. Not to mention real butter and sharp cheddar cheese. Hungry? Don’t worry – I’ll see you Thursday right here with Savory Bacon & Cheddar Scones, I promise!

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Cioppino Angel Hair Pasta

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 15 minutes | Servings: 4 servings | Difficulty: Easy


½ pound cleaned squid
½ pound large shrimp
½ pound tilapia, or other firm, mild white fish
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
1 large shallot, or medium onion
2 large cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
½ cup white wine (or red wine, if that’s what you’ll be drinking with dinner!)
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ tsp fennel seed
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
½ pound angel hair pasta (half a box)
Parmesan cheese, grated

Peel and devein the shrimp. Chop the squid into rings and manageable pieces of tentacle. Chop the tilapia into 1½ inch pieces.

In a sauce pan, bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. While the water heats, prepare your seafood, chop the shallot, basil and parsley, measure out your wine, open the can of tomatoes, line up your spices with measuring spoons handy, and get the garlic cloves ready to press.

NOTE: To make this come out right, you want to bring the water to a boil and keep it there while you begin the sauce. Here’s the trick: When the tomatoes are thickened a little, set a timer for 4 minutes, drop the pasta, add the tilapia, put the lid on the sauce and start the timer! At the 2 minute mark, take off the lid, add the shrimp and squid, and replace the lid. When the timer goes off, drain the pasta. Come back to the sauce – the shrimp and squid should be opaque by now. TURN OFF THE HEAT. If they need a minute more, replace the lid and let the heat from the sauce finish the job. Do this, and you’ll be rewarded with tender rings and juicy shrimp!

In a sauté pan with lid, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for 1 min. until it starts to turn translucent. Add the fennel seed and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook for 1 more minute, until tender. Add the white wine and a bay leaf. Reduce down to a couple of tablespoons of liquid. Add the tomatoes. Bring to a simmer, add the oregano and season with 1 tsp kosher salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Simmer until it reduces slightly, about 5 minutes. [This is where you drop your pasta in the salted water and set timer for 4 minutes] Add the tilapia, cover and cook for 2 min. Add the squid and shrimp, cover and cook for 2 to 3 min. until they are opaque. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE SEAFOOD! Remove from heat. Gently stir in the fresh basil and parsley. Taste and season with salt and pepper again if necessary.

And serve in bowls over angel hair pasta. Top with chopped Italian parsley and Parmesan cheese. Serve with Savory Bacon & Cheddar Scones (stay tuned for this recipe later this week!!) and the rest of that wine you cooked with (it ain’t getting no fresher, after all!)