A good strong fish stock will lend a special marine smack to a number of soups, seafood dishes, and rices in this book. While you can always doctor a mixture of bottled clam juice and water with a few mussels and shrimp shells, real fish stock is easy to make and will keep for a long time in the freezer. You don’t need expensive fish to make stock: Just ask your fishmonger for fish trimmings, such as heads, tails, and frames. Black bass, grouper, rock cod, halibut, and especially the gelatinous monkfish tails will all work, but avoid oily fish like salmon or bluefish. For extra flavor, I like to toss in a couple of blue crabs and some mussels, as well as cheap small fish like porgy, mullet, whiting, or ocean perch. Chinatown fish markets—if there’s one in your area—are a good source of inexpensive, but very fresh, fish.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 large garlic cloves, unpeeled and smashed
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 4 pounds fish frames, heads, and tails, thoroughly rinsed under cold running water, gills trimmed and discarded
- 1 pound inexpensive small fish (see headnote), cleaned, gutted, and scaled (optional)
- 3 large plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 10 mussels, scrubbed and debearded right before using (optional)
- 2 blue crabs (optional)
- 4 large parsley sprigs
- Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, and carrot and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant and the vegetables begin to soften, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the fish frames, whole fish, and the tomatoes, cover, and cook until the fish is opaque and the tomatoes have thrown off some of their juices, 8 to 10 minutes. Add 11 cups water and the wine, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil, thoroughly skimming off the foam. Add the mussels and crabs, if using, and the parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, until the stock is flavorful, about 30 minutes. If you’d like stronger-tasting stock, reduce it over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes longer.
2. Strain the stock through a fine sieve into a clean pot or bowl, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids, taste the stock, and adjust the amount of salt and pepper. If using the stock right away, skim off as much fat as you can. Otherwise, place the stock, covered, in the refrigerator and remove the fat when chilled. The stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months.