This isn’t going be one of my more exciting recipes, because it’s not a complete dish. However it may be the most important. I’m sharing this not only so I can offer you guys an important foundation recipe that can strengthen many seafood dishes, but also so that I can link back to it in later recipes.
Also, it’s white fish season here in the Pacific Northwest, so this is the time.
One of the first things you learn as a student Chef is the importance of making a good stock. It’s a common practice in professional kitchens, but not so often done at home. Fortunately for the home cook, there are some decent chicken, beef, and vegetable broths available at the supermarket.
However seafood broths aren’t as commonly found, and the few that I have seen aren’t very good. Your best option is usually clam juice, which is often fine, but far from ideal for many recipes. This is why in some of my earlier recipes I instruct you to use chicken broth.
If you want to really build your seafood dishes on a strong foundation, you need to make a good fish stock, or as it is know in the industry, fish fumet (pronouced foo-may)
Like other stocks, fumet is made with bones, fish bones in this case. White fish bones make the best stock, halibut and cod are ideal, but just about any white fish works.
The bones should be clean, no fins, gills, guts, skin, and especially (with apologies to my friends in Asian and Creole communities) no heads.
- 2 lbs of white fish bones
- 1 leek (or ½ an onion) , trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
- 3 ribs of celery, trimmed, washed and roughly chopped
- 1 cup of mushrooms, I had portobello mushroom stems I used this time
- 3 or 4 bay leaves
- a small sprig of parsley
- a small sprig of dill
- 1 Tbs black peppercorns
- 2 cups of dry white wine
Rinse the fish bones thoroughly and place them in sauce pot along with enough cold water to cover them. Heat the water & bones over a medium flame until it just reaches simmer, then turn off the heat.
This step is not part of many fumet recipes, but I was trained to make it this way. Pouring out the first simmer of water removes the oily, briny flavor from the bones, and leaves a nice clean seafood taste for the fumet. You skim the foam before draining it, because the foam is made up of foul tasting impurities, and if you pour out the liquid with the foam still floating on top, it will settle onto the bones and affect the taste of the fumet.
Simmer it for approximately 2 hours, then strain the stock and discard the solids.
Don’t worry if you don’t have a large “china cap” strainer like that; it can just as effectively be strained in batches through a regular mesh strainer.
The liquid should have reduced by about half, leaving you with about a quart of fumet. Hopefully, the fish bones will have released a lot of flavor and collagen, which will leave you with a fragrant broth that will be somewhat jelly-like when cold.
If you really want to turn up the octane on your fumet, use the same batch of liquid to simmer two different batches of bones and vegetables. (just make sure you still do the cold water pre-simmer first) This double strength fumet will be slightly darker in color, but the flavor will be intense.