There is, however, one exception to my stock apathy. I love to make fish stock. It's not just because I love fish soups, but because making fish stock is so fast and easy. It only has to simmer for 40 minutes and requires no degreasing because fish is so much leaner than chicken or beef. Most fishmongers will sell you fish heads and bones relatively cheaply. My favorite fish to use for stock are branzino, sea bream, red snapper, and any other small, white or beige-fleshed fish. I tend to avoid making stock out of pink or brown-fleshed fish because it comes out too strong. If you get frames from large fish like cod, ask your fishmonger to hack them up for you so that you can easily fit them into your pot. It's a pain in the butt to do that at home.
If I am in the mood for a fish soup, I ask Carl at the New Deal Fish Market to fillet a few little fish for me and to pack the fillets separately from heads and bones. This makes it really easy to plop the heads and bones into the pot to make stock and then throw in the fillets after the stock is done and strained. Fish stock is also a great thing to have in your freezer, so I often make more than I need and freeze some in large freezer bags.
Students often ask me if it stinks up the house. Not that I can tell. Unless you cook it for hours, it's really quite innocent.
Fish substitutions: branzino, sea bream, red snapper, stripped bass, cod, haddock, hake, sole, flounder, pollock, halibut, grouper, or pretty much any light colored fish (I mean the flesh color).
Fish prep: If you tell the fishmonger that you need bones and heads for stock, he should know what to do, but just in case tell him that you want the gills and guts removed.
For 6 cups of stock
1 Lb fish heads and bones, rinsed
1/2 cup dry white wine
8 cups water
1 carrot, peeled
1 onion, peeled
1 celery rib
6 parsley stems without leaves
6 thyme sprigs or 3 rosemary sprigs
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
- In a large stock pot, combine fish heads and bones, wine, water, carrot, onion and celery. Cover and bring to a boil.
- Turn down the heat to medium, uncover, and simmer 20 minutes skimming the foam that rises to the top.
- When the foam stops rising, add parsley stems and thyme sprigs, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Simmer gently uncovered 20 more minutes. Take off heat. Strain in a colander pressing hard on the solids. Let sit for 10 minutes so that any impurities settle on the bottom of the bowl. Don't stir the stock before using, and you'll have no trouble leaving the impurities in the bowl with the last 1/3 cup or so of the stock.
P.S. The picture above is of Uha (a Russian fish soup). That's about the easiest thing you can do with your fish stock. I'll write up a recipe for it soon.