This recipe completes the trio of French based stocks that are the basis of any good kitchen. The others are veal stock and chicken stock. There are many variants on theses stocks that are often used in commercial kitchens, such as shellfish stock, but as long as you have the three main stocks under your belt, you are well on the way to mastering the kitchen basics.
Fish stock differs from the other main stocks in several ways. Firstly and most importantly is the length of time the stock is cooked. Fish stock is cooked only for 20 - 30 minutes, no more. Cook it any longer and the fresh seafood vitality that you have managed to capture will start to stew and lose freshness. Secondly, white wine is essential to the recipe. You can get away with a chicken or veal stock made with out wine (sometimes), but the nectar of the grape is central to the subtle flavours and nuances of a good fish stock. Always choose a dry white wine when making this recipe. Riesling or Semillon is perfect.
As with all stocks, temperature is of the utmost importance, second only to the quality of the raw materials. You will be searching for a temperature that extracts the maximum flavour from the fish bones and vegetables, without dissolving the gelatin back into the stock at high temperature. If this happens, your stock will be cloudy and somewhat unpalatable. This optimum temperature is always found when the surface of the stock is at a good shuddering simmer, never a rolling boil and never less than a simmer either. Keep this in mind and choose your ingredients carefully and you cannot help but succeed.
This stock can be used in all sorts of seafood soups, chowders and sauces. To make a simple herb butter sauce for fish, simply reduce 1 cup of fish stock and 1 cup of white wine to half its original volume by simmering. Add cubes of unsalted butter, about 125 gm (1/4 lb), a few at a time, whisking well and over a low flame. When all the butter has been used and the sauce looks thick and glossy add some chopped herbs, (try chervil or tarragon), salt and pepper, then a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve with a green salad and some fresh bread and your 10 minute dinner is ready.
1 kg (2 lb) fish bones and heads (Try snapper or cod)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
10 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
6 parsley stalks
500 ml (2 cups) dry white wine
Rinse the fish bones well under cold running water. Place into a stock pot, together with the remaining ingredients and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil. As soon as the stock comes to the boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Make sure the surface of the liquid is shuddering. Skim any foam that comes to the surface. Cook at this heat for 20 minutes. Gently strain the stock through a sieve and discard the solids. Allow the stock to cool and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, skim any fat that has solidified on the surface and your stock is ready to use.
Lasts in the refrigerator for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.