4 cooked Dungeness crabs (or 4 clusters of large snow crab or king crab legs, which are often sold frozen at the fish market*), cracked & steamed by fishmonger, reserving all shells
1 1/3 cups goes to Crab Toast, remaining goes to the broth when building the plate
½ cup grapeseed oil
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thinly
2 leeks, white part only, sliced thinly
2 celery stalks, sliced thinly
2 medium carrots, sliced thinly
1 bulb fennel, core removed and sliced thinly
2 red Fresno chiles or jalapeño peppers, sliced thinly
8 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 bottle white wine
28-ounce can diced tomatoes
Stems from 1 bunch basil
1 quart (4 cups) clam juice
Bodies and shells of 4 crabs, meat removed
Juice of 4 oranges
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
For the Fresh-Picked Crab Meat:
Place crabs on small baking sheet. Pull meat aside and place on another small baking sheet, place shells in bowl and reserve for broth. Reserve picked crab meat for Crab Toasts and/or Cioppino Broth.
Save crab legs for plating in bowl or ¼ sheet pan. Using kitchen shears, snip a thin segment of shell out of the base of each crab leg to make it easy for guests to access the meat within. Reserve the snipped crab legs on a small baking sheet.
For the Cioppino Broth:
Break up crab shells into small pieces.
Heat your pan over high heat. Add crab shells to the hot pan, stir, and then add grapeseed oil. Roast shells for 5 minutes.
Place coriander and fennel seeds in mesh tea ball and set to the side. Add onions, leeks, carrots, fennel, celery, garlic, and Fresnos and sauté until vegetables sweat and become translucent, about 15 minutes.
Add tomato paste and stir to coat the vegetables. Continue cooking until the tomato paste is sticky and starts to brown. (The smell of the raw tomato paste will be gone and it will smell like caramelizing vegetables.)
Add basil stems and wine and de-glaze the pan, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Reduce the wine by ½.
Stir in diced tomatoes, clam juice and orange juice. Place tea ball with spices in stew.
Reduce heat and let simmer 45 minutes.
Remove tea ball and taste the broth for spice. If you would like it spicier at this point, add more peppers. Remove broth from heat and let cool slightly. Pour broth in batches into a blender and blend on low just enough to break up the shells. Push through coarse strainer. Discard shells. Return to pot.