Cooking Techniques – Make Your Own Fish Stock
Living on Texas’ Gulf Coast, we have access to great sources for fresh seafood. Many a weekend, you’ll find us heading to Rose’s Seafood in Seabrook. Just under the Kemah bridge, many a local resident lines up at Rose’s to select from a variety of the day’s fresh catch. Get there early, though, because the best selection goes fast.
I requested seafood to pair with a Washington white from L’Ecole No. 41, so Chef Joe and I picked up some fresh red snapper, huge gulf shrimp, sea scallops and tuna. I watched Joe tossing various fish parts into his favorite All Clad pan, and grabbed my camera to snap some pictures. What resulted was a decadent medley of seafood in a fabulous cream sauce. And it all started with Joe’s fish stock. I asked him if he could give me the “recipe” because I thought the pictures were cool. He said it’s more a technique than a recipe, and wrote down the process. Here’s what he sent me in an e-mail entitled “Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads.”
Joe’s Seafood Stock and Sauce
Place a stock pot over med-high heat. When the pan is hot, add a little oil. Toss in shrimp heads, fish heads and bones, a large onion (halved), a few pepper and allspice cloves, a carrot, stalk of celery, a few garlic cloves (crushed), and any other garbage, um trimmings from prepping the meal. Don’t bother peeling the onion, carrot or garlic, just toss it all in. Keep things moving around for a minute or two, taking care that nothing burns. Things will get very fragrant as you stir this mess around, once it does pour in a bottle of cheap neutrally flavored white wine. Pinot Gris or Muscadet work well, or an unoaked Chardonnay if you want richer flavor. Add some dried thyme and sage, or whatever flavors work for you, it really depends on how you plan to use it. Bring to a simmer and reduce the heat so that it never reaches a boil. Towards the end, toss in a bunch of fresh parsley or cilantro to brighten the flavor. At the end of the cooking process be sure to run the stock through a fine strainer.One of the great things about fish stock is that it doesn’t take all day to make. I usually start it while I am prepping and cleaning the seafood and vegetables and it is ready to use at the end when I need it.It is really about technique, so do not think of this as a recipe. Almost all of the ingredients can be removed or replaced, use lobster shells or don’t put in the celery, it is just a matter of taste. Use what’s on hand, and things that are going to be used in the meal. All that is really important is that the shells, bones and heads are quickly sautéed, that the wine not have any off flavors or strong taste, and that the mixture doesn’t boil. If you don’t mind your stock getting cloudy, even the last item doesn’t matter much, just don’t get carried away with the heat. Two things that shouldn’t be added are gills and guts, as they will impart an unwanted bitterness. Other than that, toss in whatever works for you. Add some lemon or lime juice, match herbs with your entrée, go nuts! It ain’t rocket science.
To make the cream sauce in the photo, I sauteed some shrimp (deveined, but with shells on) and garlic in olive oil. Once they were done and set aside I used about 2/3 of cup of fish stock to deglaze the pan and then let it reduce quickly by about half, Then I added about half a cup of heavy cream and reduced it the same way. I added some seasoning, removed it from the heat and whisked in butter 1 tbsp at a time until it was thick. It usually takes about 4 or 5 tbsps. It should coat the back of a spoon. Again, it is more about technique than ingredients, but a nice finish for the sauce is some lime zest and finely chopped cilantro. Another is lemon zest and capers, but it all depends on what you like and what you plan to put it on.
One of the great things about fish stock is that it doesn’t take all day to make. I usually start it while I am prepping and cleaning the seafood and vegetables and it is ready to use at the end when I need it. However, if you are cleaning a lot of fish, say for a fish fry, and you won’t need stock for the meal, go ahead and make some anyway. Just pop it in the freezer, it will keep for 2-3 months. – Joe Power
If you live anywhere near Seabrook, Texas, make sure you visit Rose’s for some excellent fresh seafood. And if not, check out your local fish monger for delicacies to make your own homemade fish stock.