Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fish Stock

The art of making stock has always been tied with the art of frugality. This is true in cultures across the globe — everything from French and Italian to Japanese. It's the art of actually extracting the maximum amount of goodness from the spare parts so as to not waste them.

This is particularly true in the case of fish stock since it has an exceptionally short shelf-life. Ideally, fish stock is best made fresh and consumed quickly.

Fish stock has always been made from the "unwanted" parts that still preserve a strong amount of both fish flavor and the proteins.

Classic dashi is basically a precise fish stock but the CC has talked about that extensively so we'll skip it this time and talk about the more classical French version.

If you look online, they talk about making fish stock with cod or monkfish. Have you seen the price of any of these lately?

These people are not just foolish; they are positively retarded!

Fish stock is made with any non-oily fish with the spare parts if you will. The heads, the tails, and everything else. (Incidentally, you can preserve these things in the freezer if you don't plan to make it right away. The CC almost always has prawn shells in his freezer.)

Here's a short list of things that make amazing fish stock:
  • Fish heads and tails.
  • Prawn shells.
  • Lobster shells.
  • Dried anchovies.
  • Dried niboshi (煮干し).
  • Dried shrimp.
  • Maldive fish flakes (basically same as katsuobushi.)
  • Clam juice and clam muscles.
  • Scallop muscles (finely chopped.)
The short version is waste-not-want-not. The only detail is that dried fish should be boiled for no more than roughly 8-10 minutes before the stock turns bitter. (You can reduce the stock a second time later if you want a more concentrated stock.)

The recipe below is "generic". You can add different spices if you like. For example, the CC frequently adds fresh parsley which since it comes from the carrot family tends to accentuate the sweet carrot flavors. Also, a judicious addition of fennel is a nice touch. However, these are all details to the basic skill that you need to know. So here goes...


1 onion
1 stalk celery
1 large carrot

olive oil
black peppercorns

"fish" (from above)


Dice the onions, celery, carrots really fine. Fry in some olive oil they are soft. About 8 minutes. Add the peppercorns and salt and fry for a bit. Add water.

Bring to a boil and let it cook for about 20 minutes. Skim as the oil and impurities come to the top.

Add the "fish" and let cook for no more than 8-10 minutes. You will need to skim one more time.

Pass the mixture through a sieve lined with a cheesecloth.

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