After several bizarre 70 degree December days, the Northeast finally settled back down to its normal chilly wintry self. It is so satisfying to listen to the wuthering winds and watching bare tree branches swaying to and fro, knowing that you are kept safe and warm within the nicely heated apartment. And you can spend the rest of the day curling up on the couch in your PJs, reading a book with a cup of hot cocoa in hand. But to make dinner you have to brave the freezing windchill to buy food! Don’t fret. Soup is the answer to a day like this, warming you from the inside out, even if the bitter cold has chilled into the bones.
Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network made a wonderful Italian fish soup, not unlike the famous French Bouillabaisse. Following her recipe, we built the soup base with onions, fennel bulb, and tomato paste. Earlier, I simmered a fish stock with a piece of freezer-burned fish filet and a bag of shrimp shells from months ago. Like chicken stock, fish stock benefits from a mix of onions, carrots, celery, bay leaf, and thyme. A splash of white wine also helps extract the flavor. But it takes only less than an hour to make a fish stock, during which the house is filled with the wonderful seafood aroma – not the bad smelly kind, but a complex fragrance punctuated by celery and onion scents. The onion/fennel/tomato paste base is deglazed with some more wine, and allowed to amalgamate together with the strained fish stock and a can of chopped tomatoes. Another bay leaf at this point adds more nuance to the flavor.
After all ingredients have happily danced together for a good half hour, all there is to do is adding mussels, clams, scallops, shrimp, and chunks of fish, and cook until everything is just done. Paired with some crusty old bread and European high-fat butter, all we need now is a wood-burning fireplace and a sheepskin rug on which we can enjoy this wonderful soup, made from the essence of the sea…