If you've ever considered making your own stock, but decided against it because you thought it was disproportionately labor- or time-intensive, well, you're not wrong.
The practice of making stock from beef or veal or poultry bones was based upon a tradition that allowed for unlimited free labor in the kitchen. So unless you enjoy toiling away like a medieval serf, you probably buy your cooking stocks at the supermarket.
Fish stock happens to be the exception to the serf rule. Unlike chicken stock or beef stock, fish stock is quick and easy to make — rather than simmering away for hours, requiring continuous skimming and fussing by you, fish stock takes just 30 minutes to make. And it's a magnificent base for making soups, chowders, seafood risotto, any number of sauces, and all kinds of other things.
If you happen catch your own fish, this is a particularly useful technique for you, because it utilizes items like fish heads and bones, that you would otherwise simply throw away.
The same goes for fish markets. If you ask nicely, you will very likely be rewarded with all the fish bones and fish heads you can carry — either for free or for very minimal cost.
The best fish bones to use for making fish stock are ones from mild, lean, white fish like halibut, cod or flounder. As a general rule, you'll want to avoid salmon, trout, mackerel or other oily, fatty fish — the reason being, their strong flavor will likely overpower your finished dish.
On the other hand, if you're specifically making salmon broth, for example, then salmon bones will produce a stock with unbelievably deep, rich salmon flavor.
- 4 lbs fish bones with heads (gills removed)
- 1 gallon cold water
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 medium rib celery, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 2-3 whole peppercorns
- 3-4 parsley stems
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 whole clove
- 1 pinch dried thyme
- Make a sachet d'epices by tying the thyme, peppercorns, clove, parsley stems and bay leaf into a piece of cheesecloth.
- In a heavy-bottomed stock pot or soup pot, heat the butter over medium heat.
- Lower the heat, add the vegetables and warm very gently, with the lid on, for about 5 minutes or until the onions are softened and slightly translucent but not brown.
- Add the fish bones, cover with a piece of parchment paper and re-cover the pot, letting the bones the bones warm gently until they're slightly opaque.
- Remove the parchment, add the wine and bring up the heat until it starts to simmer. Finally, add the sachet and the water, heat to a simmer and let simmer for 30-45 minutes.
- Strain (remove fish bones first if that makes it easier), cool and refrigerate.