Where’s the beef, bone? Cioppino

Long ago, in the days before Costco and Trader Joe’s, I regularly made chicken stock, beef stock, and fish stock. I could find chicken bones at any grocery store: backs, necks, wing tips, legs, and even feet. Before Thanksgiving, turkey backs, wings, and necks were available too. Beef bones were easily found: dog bones, soup bones, oxtails, and marrow bones, with a pound of short ribs thrown in for that extra oomph simmered long and slow made a hearty, soul-satisfying broth. Never thought of it as “bone broth”, but then the only ramen I knew came in a styrofoam bowl. 

When I lived in Iowa, other than summertime perch and walleye pike, seafood came from Mrs. Paul and fish bones went into making fertilizer. Once I moved to Puget Sound, seafood was everywhere—clams oysters, snapper, cod—and fish bones were there for the asking. But the last time I wanted to make fish stock for cioppino, I went to three grocery stores, two fish markets and Tacoma Boys for white fish bones but came up empty handed and bought two bottles of clam juice instead. 

Before Thanksgiving I searched for chicken and turkey bones to make extra tasty stock and found zip, nada. This week I shopped in vain for beef/pork/veal bones to make stock: Safeway, Tacoma Boys, Dave’s Meat Market (for heaven’s sake), the Metropolitan—no dice, no bones. Thriftway had oxtails for $10.00 a pound and dog bones (without a lick of meat) for $4.69 a pound, but $25.00 seemed a bit stiff for a few gallons of stock. 

How can this be in a world rich with ramen shops, locally made burrata cheese, hand-pulled noodles, a grocery store kiosk that makes fresh mozzarella cheese, frozen naan bread at Costco, fresh turmeric bulbs at the local vegetable stand, rainbow bagels, strawberries and mangos in January, quail eggs and goat milk in the dairy case? Where in the world have the good bones gone? If you know, please tell me. 


For some reason, I think of Dinah Shore whenever I make cioppino.


Olive oil 
1 onion—coarsely diced 

  • 1 bulb fennel—thinly julienned (Reserve feathery fennel leaves for garnish)

  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic 

  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds 

  • 1⁄2 tsp. red chili flakes 

  • 1 tsp. dried oregano 

  • 1 tsp. dried basil 

  • 2 bay leaves 
1 can diced in juice tomatoes 

  • 1⁄2 small can tomato sauce 
  • 3-4 cups fish stock or 2 cups chicken broth and 1 cup clam juice
  • 1 Tbs. minced anchovy 

  • 1⁄2-1 lb. firm fish—snapper, cod, halibut, perch cut into small pieces 

  • 1⁄2 -1 lb. peeled shrimp 

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, then sauté the onion, fennel, garlic, and herbs over medium heat for 3 minutes. 

Add the tomatoes and cook down for a minute or two, then add the tomato sauce, and stock. Salt and pepper to taste, cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes. 

Add anchovy, fish, and shrimp. Simmer covered 5-10 min or until fish is done. Garnish with fennel leaves and Parmesan cheese. 


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2 Responses to Where’s the beef, bone? Cioppino

  1. Jenni says:

    Chris and I wanted cioppino last night, but the ready-made variety was sold out at Stadium Thriftway. You have answered a need! As to fish bones, if you called Northern Seafood down at the foot of McCarver in advance, do you think they would save some for you — at less than $10.99/lb.? 😉 I’m with you on how availability of anything but skinless, boneless animal protein is a thing of the past. Loved the post.

  2. Nancy Pringle says:

    Yes, as you’ve discovered, bone broth is big. Even Olympia had a bone broth store and I read about one in Manhattan a few years ago where people lined up with their empty bottles to be filled at a local bone broth shop.

    Since I’ve been making it here in Palm Desert, chicken backs, organic, were available $1.50 lb at Whole Foods.

    Our grandmas knew it was healthy.


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