Fish Stock

 If I could do anything I want to this weekend… anything at all, I would go to Vancouver for the day and wander around Granville Island Market.  This False Creekside maze is the creative, culinary hub of the city that is still my standard as the greatest city in the world.  Sydney? Barcelona? Munich?  They’re all great, but you cannot beat that fresh, west, native feeling of Vancouver, which at the same time is Manhattan hip and San Francisco grounded.    With all of the big bounty of the Frazier Valley and the Pacific Ocean at hand, Granville Market serves as a food terminal moving it all along to kitchens and tables.  There’s the produce, strawberries stacked in almost 12-inch high pyramids, and the seafood, the cheeses and pastas and almost every beautiful food item you could desire.  So I dawdle through the sectors of the market, totally wide-eyed, my mind spinning with the options of the meals I could cook.  And suddenly, I’m starving.  Hunger comes upon me instantaneously and I have to eat that second.  I always go to the same place; it’s called The Stock Market.    This is a kiosk that sells vacuum-packed liters of their made-fresh-daily soups, fresh soup stocks, pasta sauces, dressings, and pestos.  You know, this is where you really need to start your shopping and then work backward, picking up meat, or pasta, or vegetables to complete the dish.  But how does this help my hunger issue?  They sell containers of their daily soup topped with a big hunk of Rosemary focaccia bread and they always seem to have my favorite:  red snapper chowder.  I never considered that anyone else in the world had noticed the red snapper chowder at The Stock Market on Granville Island, but me, yet when I researched it, there seems to be an entire cult following for this soup.

            I found a beautiful St. Pierre, which is a Mediterranean species of John Dory, at a local market this week.  I’ll admit that he’s not the most handsome fish, but I knew when I saw it that the post-fillet carcass of this fish was bound for fish soup stock, which is what is absolutely required if you’re going to make any kind of fish soup.  This formula will fill a 1-gallon stock pot. The ingredient amounts are suggestions to give you an idea of the proportions so you can, of course, adjust them.
Fish Stock
Ingredients: All well-washed and chopped in large pieces
Onions, 2 large
Celery, 3 stalks, including lots of leaves
Leeks, 1 large or 2-3 small
Carrots, 2-3 large
Fresh garlic, 1 clove, peeled and smashed
Fresh parsley, about 1 cup
Thyme, 6 healthy sprigs
Bay leaves, 3-5
Cloves, 2
Black peppercorns, 20 whole
Sea salt , a little for now.  You can adjust the salt in your finished dish.
Non-oily white fish bones (halibut, cod, red snapper or sole), rinsed and kept in large pieces
Cover with filtered water and low-simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
When cool, strain the stock and compost the solids.  Freeze or use the stock in soups, sauces, and braises.I plan to follow through with the snapper chowder and Rosemary focaccia bread this weekend and if all goes well, I’ll post it here.   Otherwise, I’ve got a gold mine of stock in my freezer for my next endeavor.

It Begins with the Stock

I make chicken stock regularly.  This ritual has been a staple in my life for years and though I have wished for a vegetarian stock that is the chicken soup equivalence, I have yet to discover one that satisfies me.  I have tried many:  organic store bought, concoctions involving brewer’s yeast, but I’m sorry to say that they have, for the most part, come out tasting strongly of a strange, particular ingredient or else… dish water.  Usually, when a recipe calls for vegetable stock I substitute homemade chicken stock.

            I love The Splendid Table on NPR.  I feel happy in the radio presence of Lynne Rossetto Kasper, the host.  She is wise, yet so fresh with food.  She is also constantly affirming of all the guests on her show, taking a sincere interest in their culinary discoveries and implying that she is eager to learn from them, too.  Even Amy Sedaris.
            I am on a trajectory this week to make a greens soup that was described by a guest on The Splendid Table, Anna Thomas, who wrote a book called Eating Well.  I am going to save her greens soup recipe for a few days because I first need to make a deeply flavored vegetable stock.  I turned to the experience of Lynne Rossetto Kasper on this.  She has a recipe for a Hearty Vegetable Broth.  Her words, “There is nothing weak-kneed about this vegetable broth.  It’s big flavors hold their own in any dish…”
If you are used to tossing a bunch of raw ingredients in a pot, covering them with water, and walking away to let them simmer when you make stock, you may find this is a little more complicated.  To bring up the sugars in all of the vegetables, you cook them down until they are brown and beginning to stick to the pan.  You then deglaze the pan with white wine and let that cook off.  Finally, you add the cooked vegetables to some fresh ones, cover it all with water, and simmer it for a couple of hours.  This process, along with a large portion of sautéed mushrooms, gives the stock depth that I think rivals a beef stock.
Hearty Vegetable Broth
Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table, NPR
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
2 large carrots, coursely chopped
2 large stalks celery with leaves, coursely chopped
4 medium onions, coursely chopped
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, coursely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon dry basil or marjoram
2/3 cup dry white wine
6 large romaine lettuce leaves, coursely chopped
1 large ripe fresh tomato, chopped, or 2 canned plum tomatoes, crushed
A pinch freshly grated nutmeg
About 4 to 5 quarts of water
1.  Heat the oil in a 12-inch saute pan or skillet (not non-stick) over medium-high heat.  Add the carrot, celery, onion, and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spatula, until the onions are golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and basil and cook a few seconds more.
Vegetables caramelizing and beginning to stick to the pan
2.  Add the wine and stir, scraping up any brown glaze in the pan, until most of the liquid has evaporated.  Transfer to an 8-quart stock pot.  Add the romaine, tomatoes, nutmeg, and enough water to cover the solids by 3 to 4 inches.  Bring to a gentle bubble, partially cover, and simmer slowly for about 90 minutes.
Deglazing the pan with white wine
Simmering stock
3.  Strain the broth into a large bowl, pressing down on the solids to extract as much flavor as possible.  Cool and chill.  Skim off any solidified oil from broth’s surface.  Refrigerate or freeze in 1 quart portions or in ice-cube trays.

I felt like I was making an Asian soup with the lettuce and the mushrooms.  The broth has a complex, yet natural flavor and this is only the stock.  On to the greens soup.