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Fish soup, livorno style, the so called "cacciucco"

(Zuppa di pesce alla livornese, ovvero"cacciucco")

Amounts for 8 people:

  • small fishes with a weight of about 200 grams:
    1 moor hen
    1 scorpion fish
    1 capon
    1 "mormora"
    1 whiting
    1 "pagello"
    1 sole
  • fishes already scaled, disembowelled and slipped off by the fishmonger (please require all the carcasses):
    4 rock red mullets
    4 "tracine"
  • 1 package of mussels (the black ones)
  • 1 package of clams (the so called arselle)
  • 8 slices of dogfish
  • 4 whitefish
  • 4 squids already cleaned of the bone, eyes, tooth and belly, cut in pieces
  • a chopped mixture composed by:
    5 garlic cloves
    1 small onion
    1 celery rib
    a bunch of parsley
    5 leaves of sage
    the leaves of a small bunch of rosemary
    1 fish stock cube
    1 chicken stock cube
    1 glass of red whine
  • a blended mixture composed by:
    ½ kg of tomato
    4 hot chilli peppers
    a pinch of oregano
    5-6 spoons of olive oil
    8 slices of Tuscany stale bread
    2 garlic cloves
    salt and pepper
Take a pan with a thick bottom, put all the heads and fishbone of the slipped off fish, dripping wet of the water, when they have been previously washed.
Cook over a medium-brisky heat, turning very often in order anything would stick on the bottom of the pan, gradually bathing with the wine until it will be completely evaporated (together with the fish humour).
At this point add one litre of water and the two over mentioned stock cubes, cover with a lid and cook for 30 minutes, then switch off, filter with a thin sieve and keep the obtained broth warm, to use afterwards.
Wash the pan that you have previously used and after having dried it, put the chopped herbs/vegetables and the oil, let them brown for 5-6 minutes over a brisky heat, continuously turning, then add the blended mixture of tomato, turn and mix always over a brisky heat and cook quickly for 7-8 minutes. After this time add the two types of mussels, summarily drained from the washing water, cover with a lid, let them open so that, after 5-6 minutes, taste and add some more salt if necessary, take out from the heat and, with the aid of a skimmer, remove all the seafood as drained as possible, keep them warm. Take once again the pan over the heat and add the fish broth (the one we were talking about above), cook 10 minutes without lid over a medium heat, in order the sauce would restrain a little bit, then put inside the pan (in order to cook them) the cuttlefish, adjust the heat to obtain a very slow cooking, cook for 7-8 minutes more, then add the dogfish.
When all this stuff is on the way to be cooked, check the salt level once again, then take the fish fillets and lay them on the pan in a tidy way and covered with by cooking broth, cover with a lid and cook 3-4 minutes more, then switch off.
Roast the bread, rub it abundantly with garlic, grind abundant pepper over it, then bathe with a big spoon of fish sauce each slice of bread in each plate in order to soak them a little bit.
At this time, very softly, as not to break them, put over the bread the relevant part of fish fillets and molluscs, then also the seafood and finally the necessary sauce to obtain a quite broth soup. Serve it sparkling with some chopped fresh parsley.
In few words this recipe is a "cacciucco" (we did not want to call it in these terms for the great respect we have for the people of Livorno and for their splendid diversity, unrepeatable for anybody else).
Cacciucco or not, in any case this is a magnificent fish soup, easy to make and also quite cheap. We have indicated an amount for 8 people as to have the major variety of fish possible, because this variety represents one of the most important reason for the deliciousness of this recipe, so that do not reduce it, instead invite more friends to eat with you, after they will be surely grateful.
One other reason for which we have thought not to be right to use the term "cacciucco" derives from the use of fish without fishbone, that in Livorno is considered like a blasphemous thing.
According to these respects we have used a different name instead of "cacciucco"; as it is concerned with our preferences (that means with or without fishbone), we are country people so that we prefer the fish fillets without fishbone.

A Giuseppe Alessi recipe
Translated by Gianna Toni
Picture by Kee-Ho Casati

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