After a long absence in posting, I am back in the saddle. First things first. I just finished teaching my first semester of Saucier at Collin College. It has been a pleasure to work with my eager students. Now that we are done with the pleasantries, it’s time for the nitty gritty.
Back to the basics again, we are going to a fundamental that we cover in the first few days of Saucier. Stock. Today, fish stock.
Of the primary stocks, this is the easiest, fastest and most convenient stock to make. It is also the most pungent stock, so be prepared to have your home smell like a seafood shop for a day. Why do I need fish stock, you ask? Do you cook fish? Do you like it dry? Do you make gumbo or fish soup? If the answer is yes, and it very well is if you are reading the blog, then you NEED fish stock.
Mise en place. That word will keep popping up forever and ever and ever. Simple mise en place today:
10 lb. fish bones (lean fish)
1 lb. mirepoix
8 oz. onion
4 oz. carrot
4 oz. celery
1 bay leaf (fresh is best)
6-8 pepper corns
2-3 parsley stems
1 or 2 whole cloves
1 gal cold water
24 fly oz. white wine
1 large stock pot 12 qtr. or larger
1 fine strainer and cheese cloth or fine chinoise
Fish bones. Either fish bones you clean yourself, or that you purchase from your friendly neighborhood fish monger. Today we have a combination of red snapper and pike. You want a lean fish for this application. Good fish for this are red fish, red snapper, pike, bass, flounder, sole, halibut or cod. What to avoid? Fatty, oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna or trout. The fatty fish have a more complex and intense flavor that just does not do well with stock. If you use a large fish like halibut, you stock will take longer to cook as the bones are larger. We are excluding the use of shell fish today. We will cover the usage of shellfish bits in stock and other vital applications in another episode.
Mirepoix. The classis mirepoix takes two forms. The common first ingredient is onion, common second is celery and the most used third being carrot. The second form of the French mirepoix is white mirepoix, which replaces the carrot with parsnip. The classic fish stock contains this variation. Today I am rolling with carrots. Why? I happen to have them in the cooler today. For our fish stock, we are going to do a fine chop. This differs from chicken stock or beef stock. Chicken stock allows for rough chop, and brown beef stock uses large chunks. Why so small? You are cooking this stock for 45 minutes to an hour. If you have a large cut of vegetable, you will not extract the full flavor from the vegetable. The exception being halibut stock. Thicker bones take longer to cook, so a slightly larger cut will work.
Spices or sachet. Tradition would be that you make a sachet of this combination of spices. I don’t bother. Why? I am going to strain this stock anyway right? Why waste the time on making sachet out of cheese cloth. Why not use ground cloves or pepper you ask? You are making stock. Stock should not have little black or brown spots in it.
Water and wine. Wine is considered optional. I don’t consider it an option. A nice dry white wine adds flavor to the party. Flavor is good. Water is your primary carrier for your stock. Duh.
So it’s time to make your stock.
Easy stuff. Put your ingredients in your stock pot. Pour the wine in, and add enough water to just cover the bones. If it takes more than a gallon, so be it. Next, turn your heat on to medium. You want to simmer you stock, not boil it. You are going to simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. During that time, if there is “stuff” and “foam” or “scum” skim it off the top. That’s it. You have gotten the effective flavor compounds from your bones now. Next we strain it. I use a chinoise, which is a very fine mesh strainer that is used is making sauces. It tends to be much finer than the average home strainer. If you do not have a chinoise, this is where the cheese cloth comes in handy. Take your strainer and line it with a couple of layers of
bones and leftover stuff.
This particular application will make anywhere from 1 to 1.25 gallons of stock. If you happen to have a walk in cooler you can keep your stock for up to a week. You can also freeze it, and it will keep for several months. Your next option is the one that I tend to roll with the most. I reduce my stocks down to a glaze or a glace de poisson.
Making a glaze allows for easier storage of your stock. It takes much less space to store 1 or 2 cups of glaze then it does to store
1.5 to 2 gallons of whole stock. Reduction like this does tend to change some flavor profiles when fully reduced, but not so drastically that it does not taste like fish stock. I will reduce my gallon and a quarter today down to about a cup and a half. To
reconstitute, take about a ¼ teaspoon to a half teaspoon to a cup
Variation: Fish Fumet
Fish Fumet is a moderately more fragrant and flavorful procedure because you are changing the flavor profile by pre-sweating the bones and mirepoix and deglazing your pot with your white wine. Because you are precooking the bones and the mirepoix, you can cut your stock cook time down to 30-45 minutes.