Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013
Photo by Judith Hausman
Fish soup is warm and comforting.
It’s snowy and cold this time of year, just the right weather to call on the half-gallon of lobster broth I cosseted home from summer vacation months ago. I had to nestle it in bags of ice in a large cooler, and even then, one bagful tore open and leaked away, making quite the fishy mess. Still, this soup made it all worthwhile.
Of course, you might not happen to have a stash like this to call on for a warming and aromatic fish soup. There are alternatives: buy some fish stock from a reputable fish monger, buy some fish heads and bones from the same guy and simmer them up yourself, steam some mussels or clams for dinner and the broth will be just the thing, or, last resort, use 2 bottles of clam juice, available in most supermarkets. Be careful; it’s salty.
The rest of the recipe is equally flexible; there are as many fish soup recipes as coastlines. If you’d like to avoid the bacon, use olive oil although the bacon and potatoes are what qualifies this as chowder. If you don’t like the hint of anise, choose white wine over Pernod. Cod qualifies as local for me, but you can use any white fish, keeping in mind that thin filets may cook very fast in the hot soup. Always add the fish chunks last. Ramp up or delete the hot stuff. Of course, use your home-canned tomatoes if you’re lucky enough to have some.
Serve the hot soup (after snow shoveling) with crusty bread, corn muffins or biscuits.
- 2 slices of bacon, diced (or 3 tablespoons olive oil)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, thinly sliced
- 1 small hot pepper, chopped (or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 large can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
- at least 2 cups fish broth (see main text alternatives)
- 2 medium potatoes, chopped
- 1/4 cup Pernod or other anise-flavored spirit (or white wine)
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 1 pound skinless cod filet (or other white fish), cut in chunks
- salt and pepper, to taste
- parsley or cilantro, chopped (for garnish)
Cook the bacon until just browning, and pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat (or heat the olive oil in a large soup pot). Soften the onions, carrots, hot pepper and red pepper in the fat. Add the tomatoes, fish broth, potatoes, Pernod (or wine) and seeds.
Simmer until the potatoes are nearly soft.
Add the fish, and simmer 3 to 7 more minutes. Season and garnish.
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