Fish soup, heart-warming, spirit-lifting

A good and hearty fish soup offers rare pleasures and always puts me in that Southern, summer’s mood. It doesn’t have to be a bouillabaisse to count as French. Many cities along the shores of France have their own signature fish stews, soups, ragouts, and they are all worth a try.

Me, personally, I prefer the Mediterranean twist, always adding tomatoes, fennel, saffron and lots of garlic. Use at least four different kinds of fish, always add mussels and squids and combine all their different jus to one marvel of a soup. The basic rules:

  • Clean the fish, cut them into pieces, fillet the ones known to have many bones (like rouget, daurade). Salt the fish, wrap firmly into film and let sit in the fridge.
  • Cook the mussels first, just to open them and to get their juices.
  • Take the fish heads, tails, bones and all leftovers and make a rich fumet, or fish broth, consisting of one liter of water, two bay leaves, ten peppercorns, some celery, fennel maybe, an onion if you wish, a dash of salt (let simmer for 20 to 30 minutes).
  • Sweat onions and garlic in olive oil, add fennel and/or celery stalks, all cut into tiny cubes, deglace them with white wine and reduce to zero. Deglace them again with the mussels’ jus and reduce. Then add the fish broth and the squid cut into cubes, reduce by half, add the (peeled) tomatoes and let cook until having kind of a very soupy tomato sauce.
  • Add the prepared fish, the firmer species first, the more delicate ones in the end with the pre-cooked mussels. Cover the casserole all along this final leg. As you can see, the fish cooks in the soup basically, and that shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes for all the fish you have. Trust your feelings when it comes to decide whether the pieces are done or not. Always stir with care, don’t flake the fish. Adjust the seasoning in the end, salt and pepper generously – this should be rustic, not too refined.


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