Fish Stew! Yum. A couple of weeks (months?) ago one of my friend’s had mentioned how much her husband likes fish stew, and I’ve been thinking about making it ever since. We have some extra fish in the house, and I would like my children to eat it, so now we will have fish stew.
And you say, what’s fancy about fish stew, well, my dear fellow followers of “Fancy Nancy” – we just need to change its name to bouillabaisse (BOO-yuh-bess) and voila – fancy. Though you purists out there might say – “you can’t prepare a bouillabaisse with any less than 4 types of fish”. I laugh at your narrow mindedness. Of course you can prepare a soup with one type of fish – that’s the whole point of soup – you use what you have. If you happen to have 4 types of fish in your house, by all means, I say, go ahead and use them. I have one type of fish (oh wait, I have some salmon in the freezer…. hmmm, I might go and thaw some of that out).
Now, originally, this was a very humble dish – the local fisherman of Marseilles (or so they say) used their leftover (unsalable) catch of the day to make soup, although nowadays it’s been commandeered by restaurants and chefs all over. Julia Child has a great recipe which I’ve adapted (from her “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”).
- 1 1/2 cup minced onions (can use leek if you have it for 1/2 a cup of this)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves mashed garlic
- 1 pound ripe tomatoes roughly chopped or 1 1/2 cups drained canned tomatoes (or 1/4 cup tomato paste)
- 2 1/2 quarts water or better yet fish stock if you have it
- 6 sprigs parsley (or can use dry-1 teaspoon)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp thyme or basil
- 1/8 tsp fennel
- 2 big pinches of saffron (big pinches?????)
- 1/8 tsp peper
- 1 Tbs salt
- 3 to 4 pounds of fish
Saute the onions in the oil until translucent and try not to get them browned, although I like them browned, so if you brown them, they’ll taste good, just won’t have the same look. Stir in garlic and tomatoes. I use pre-minced garlic – which, (and here I will digress) I might add is one of my favorite ingredients in my house. When a recipe calls for garlic, I happily go into my fridge and pull out my huge container of minced garlic (gotten from Sam’s club) and spoon out what is needed. Hooray, no garlic smelling hands, no peeling, just a bunch of garlic easily and quickly gotten.
Add fish stock. Fish stock is simply boiled fish bones or fish broth. This will give you more flavor – if you do not have fish stock you can make it by throwing in some fish bones (that you will then strain out -or putting them into a mesh bag that you can just easily remove). If you don’t have bones and are not inclined to make fish stock- throw in some potatoes (4 or so) – which you can take out before serving or leave in, whatever you prefer. The potatoes will give more flavor to your stock – you can also throw in some carrots for the same purpose. If you plan to leave them in for serving (and why wouldn’t you, they’re already there) then cut them up into small pieces that will easily fit on a spoon.
Add herbs and seasonings and cook uncovered at a moderate boil for 30 to 40 minutes. I’m using fennel seed because that’s what I have in the house. I got my saffron from Whole foods and it comes in an itty bitty container and I think I have 8 strands in there and they charged $200 for them. Ok, it wasn’t $200 – but it sure seemed like a lot (although it might be $200 for a pound). I think these Marseilles fisherman must grow their own saffron, because I’m thinking they weren’t buying saffron at these prices.
Here’s what Julia suggests – boil everything except for the actual fish you are going to be eating for 20 minutes and then strain the soup – pressing out all the juices. Depending on how much time I have is whether or not I do this (you must strain it if you put fish bones into the soup without a mesh bag), so I am not going to do this part, I will leave in my onions and other such things (I’ll take out the bay leaf – no worries). Then put in the fish you are going to eat – and simmer for about 20 minutes or until fish is flaky and cooked through. Then eat.