Aromatic Fish Soup
Fish soup is as much a part of life in the fish-rich Mediterranean as fishing itself. Every country has its own version, but the French claim the honor of the “state of the art,” with their justly famous bouillabaisse. It is impossible for us to recreate any of the originals accurately, because we simply don’t have the appropriate fish. But by using the right combination of aromatic vegetables, herbs and garlic — and by adding from our own available fish and seafood — we have come up with this delicious and utterly accessible version of a meal-size fish soup.
Fresh salmon heads are available cheaply at all fishmongers.
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, savory, spiced
Type of Dishfish soup, soup
- ¼ cup (50 mL) olive oil
- ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
- ½ tsp (2 mL) freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups (500 mL) roughly chopped onions
- 4 stalks celery with leaves, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
- ½ tsp (2 mL) fennel seeds
- 2 lbs (1 kg) plum tomatoes, diced or 1 can (28 oz [796 mL]) plum tomatoes
- 10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ tsp (2 mL) dried basil
- ½ tsp (2 mL) dried oregano
- 6 cups (1.5 L) water
- Few sprigs fresh parsley
- 2 ½ lbs (1.25 kg) fish heads (about 2 salmon heads, see Notes)
- 2 cups (500 mL) peeled cubed potatoes
- 1 ½ lbs (750 g) skinless boneless fillet of salmon, cod, halibut (or combination) cut into ½-inch (1 cm) cubes
- 8 oz (250 g) medium shrimp (optional), shelled and deveined
- 1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 large thick slices French bread, toasted
- Few chervil or celery leaves, chopped
In a large saucepan over high heat, combine olive oil, salt and pepper. Add onions, celery and fennel seeds. Sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes or until beginning to brown. Immediately add tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, oregano and basil; cook, stirring, for 5 to 6 minutes or until sauce-like.
Stir in water; bring to boil. Add parsley and fish heads. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 35 to 40 minutes on a steady bubbling (but not rolling) boil, stirring infrequently.
Take off heat. Cover and let cool 1 to 2 hours to develop flavors. Strain, pushing down on ingredients and mashed down pulp to extract all the broth. Discard leftovers from strainer. (Recipe can be prepared to this point up to 2 days in advance; cover and refrigerate broth.)
Bring the strained broth to a boil. Add potatoes, reduce heat to medium-high and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until soft and pierceable. Add fish and shrimp (if using); reduce heat to medium and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until the fish is tender but not overcooked. Stir in lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Place a toasted slice of bread into each of 4 bowls. Top each with one-quarter of the soup, making sure that potatoes and fish are distributed evenly. Garnish generously with chopped chervil and serve immediately.
1998 Byron Ayanoglu and Algis Kemezy