December 14, 2011

David Leite's Rich Fish Soup

The first taste of this soup was so unexpectedly good that it startled an Mmm! from me.  The magic lies in the fish stock--or the lack of it, in my case.  Leite states that the fish stock will make or break the soup, so use a very light stock.  Anything too salty or overly fishy will overwhelm the other, more delicate flavors of the soup.  I never cared for it myself and used chicken broth instead.

And does anyone else get into a dither buying seafood, specifically, fish?  I live near Chinatown, and every block has a fish market or three.  My trouble is that the fish are all too often unlabeled, and I can tell salmon from flounder, but that's the extent of it.  I almost wimped out and bought a bag of frozen cod filets from Whole Foods, but at nearly $12/pound, I told myself to stop being an idiot.

Still, I visited six or seven markets before settling on an unidentified fish, which I got for a dollar and change, praying that it wasn't something with a million tiny bones--Baltic herring from that one memorable lunch in Turku, I'm looking at you.  I ended up dropping the whole fish into the soup and cooked one side with the heat still on before flipping it and cooking the rest with the residual heat.  It ended up great, but I think I'll still work myself into a lather the next time I visit a fish market.

Rich Fish Soup
from David Leite's The New Portuguese Table

1 pound extra large shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 medium leek, white and pale green parts, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
3 cups fish or chicken stock
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 to 1 small medium red hot chile, to taste, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 pound white fish fillets, such as turbot, red snapper, cod; cut into 1-inch chunks
cilantro leaves

Bring 2 cups of water, the reserved shrimp shells, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Strain the broth and discard the shrimp shells.

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and cook the onions until golden.  Add the leek and cook, stirring often, until tender.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute, then stir in the tomatoes.  Add the shrimp and fish/chicken stocks and tomato paste.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.

Add the chile and paprika and cook for 5 more minutes.  Turn off the heat, add the shrimp and fish, and let sit, covered, for 20-30 minutes.  The residual heat will cook the fish perfectly.  Season with salt and pepper if needed and garnish with cilantro leaves.

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