Michele had asked about bottled or premade bases for Cioppino to avoid hours in the kitchen:
I don't know of good places to get it in the East Bay, but wanted to post here to suggest my way of making a good base without spending hours in the kitchen: the secret for me is bottled clam juice, since I don't have the patience to make fish stock!
you really don't need to spend all day doing it, in fact, I am not convinced you really would want to: Cioppino is composed of ingredients that are best if not long-cooked.
Unfortunately, I never follow an exact recipe, and it may vary depending on how many I am cooking for, my mood, and all of that.
However, I have found one on Epicurious that is quite similar, to what I do. Here is their recipe:
and here is how I would modify it: follow the ingredients list and preparation through the end of the first paragraph, except that I would at least double the amount of clam juice and NOT use any chicken stock. That's your base right there. Other changes, all optional: I usually use white wine rather than red (I like a somewhat less hearty base), and would also use fresh herbs (thyme and oregano) rather than dried, and I do use some basil, but I add it to the base rather than at the end. I also would cut the amount of red pepper flakes quite a bit; I don't think cioppino should be really spicy. Also, I am not a bell pepper fan but would add some celery instead (sauteeing it with the onions and garlic). Also, I add some bits of crabmeat to the base as it cooks. This is in addition to the crab that goes into the base after it is stewed, and is intended to be a flavor enhancer *not* a main ingredient.
As for the seafood: pretty much the way it is described in the recipe, except that I rarely include scallops (it is overkill, IMO); and (should go without saying) the crab is Dungeness, not King Crab...both claws and legs, with a bit of the body meat in the stew as indicated above and the rest added when the seafood is added; prawns, mussels and clams as indicated. I don't use snapper, usually use small amounts of halibut or perhaps ling cod or something else more sustainable...
I love it, if I do say so myself....