Sunday night. Sitting home thinking in dread about the workday tomorrow. I require comfort. I want some food love, baby. For me, that requires bread, cream, and butter. Cheese is usually necessary, but I don’t want it heavy, just comforting.
In my freezer I had a salmon steak, a tuna steak, the last of the frozen shrimp, and a couple of cod filets. In the veg drawer, there was a high-end mire-poix (leeks, carrots, shallots, onion, garlic, and carrots), my neighbor had some cream he was willing to exchange for some lovely Louisianne coffee from La Columbe (http://lacolombe.com). He doesn’t drink coffee and his breakfast guests like a deep, dark coffee experience.
So here goes the process…
in a big pot, put some olive oil and a little butter on the heat until they turn a lovely, carmelly brown.
…slice up your carrots, onion, celery, leeks, shallots, and garlic into even sized bits (about a quarter inch) and toss them into that pan with a bit of kosher salt and sautee them until they start to take on a bit of color.
…while you were cutting up the veg, all of your frozen fish should have been sitting in about twice its volume of water, thawing out. As your mire-poix is taking on some lovely color, get that fish out of water and start cubing it. Do not throw out the thaw water. You will need that later.
Season your mire-poix. I like Hot Hungarian Paprika, Cayenne, Italian Seasoning Mix, and Pepper, and stir it in…
Make a well in the middle of your veg, then drop your fish into your pan. Let it firm up a bit, but while its cooking, you should go find the flavorings to add to your soup. These are what I wanted.
Remember that fish thaw liquid from earlier? After you’ve added your seafood to the pot, dump that thaw liquid through the strainer into the soup pot. You’ll need the liquid and while your fish was thawing, it was dropping some flavor into that water (which is why its all cloudy). Oh and by the way, once your fish is thawed, it should smell like ocean water. If there’s any fishy traces at all, trash it. I’m not kidding. Put it in the garbage. Bad fish smells like fish. Good fish smells like the ocean.
You are almost finished but not quite. It looks like a nice creamy fish soup, but its a bit thin. This is where we do some French technique. Do not be alarmed. Unclench your sphincter. You will be fine, really.
What you need is equal parts butter and flour. This is called beurre manie (burr man-yeah). Its used to thicken sauces. Knead your butter into your flour, then pull out a whisk (or a fork, but you should really have a whisk), and whisk the doughy stuff bit by bit into your soup while its just on the edge of boiling. You’ll notice in about 5 to 10 minutes that your thin watery soup starts to thicken off quite nicely. Then go get a pat (or two) of butter and whisk that it. It will make your soup shine and the mouth-feel will be round and gorgeous.
While all of that was happening, check your cupboards for some bread. Turn the oven up, and throw a few slices in. Once they start to brown a little, find a clove of garlic, cut it in half and rub it lightly on the bread. No oil. No butter. Just the garlic.
This is what it all looks like when you are all done (garnished with a little parsley from the window-box)