This is a guest post from Craig Fear of Fearless Eating.
Nothing quite stirs my soul like the taste of the sea in the form of soups made with fish broth. With each succulent slurp I feel a deep connection to the coastal places I’ve lived and visited.
And yet, I know that statement sends shivers of fishy horror down many peoples’ spines.
I can hear the collective voice of fish haters everywhere…
Fish broth?! Blech!
As a Nutritional Therapist I am constantly reminded how off-putting anything fish-related is to many people. Many of my clients refuse to eat any type of fish or seafood. They just haaaaaate it. Some of my family members are the same way.
As a seafood lover I can only think of one possible reason to explain this strange phenomenon:
Because so many of us grew up eating icky fishy things like frozen fish sticks and god forbid, filet o’ fish sandwiches, it has created a negative connotation to anything fish-related.
But REAL fish broth should NOT taste fishy!
Made the right way, fish broth should only have subtle hints of fish essence in the broth and be balanced by the flavors of vegetables, herbs, spices, and wine.
Why Your Fish Broth Tastes Fishy
Now that being said, maybe you’ve made fish broth before and it did in fact come out overly fishy. Truth be told, for several years I also made some pretty gross fish broth. And the reason for that may shock some of you in the traditional food community…
I was following Sally Fallon’s recipe in Nourishing Traditions.
Yes, I know. Many consider Nourishing Traditions the bible of all things traditional food. But seriously, have you ever tried the fish broth recipe in Nourishing Traditions?
It’s pretty gross.
Because similar to the broths for chicken and beef, she calls for an extended simmer time of up to 24 hours.
Well, unlike the more stable fats in land animals, fish contains very delicate, unstable polyunsaturated fats that are highly susceptible to heat. Cooking fish for 24 hours is going to break down those fats and make them rancid, giving you a VERY fishy and overly bitter tasting broth.
But there’s good news here….
Two Awesome Reasons to Start Making Fish Broth
First, all you need is an hour to make fish broth….at most. THAT’S IT! Every source I’ve come across outside of Nourishing Traditions cautions against simmering fish bones for longer than an hour.
With the significantly shorter simmer time, the fats release their flavors into the broth without going rancid. It gives the broth a very delicate fish flavor without being overly fishy. Along with some veggies, herbs and wine, it’s absolutely deeeeeeelicious.
Second, fish broth is the cheapest broth to make!
In fact, you can often get fish bones for free. Just ask your local fishmonger to save some fish carcasses for you. At most they’ll charge you a few bucks. And they’d be thrilled to do it because after they filet the fish, they just throw them out. What a waste!
There are many ways to make real food affordable. Adding fish broth to your kitchen repertoire is one of the best ways to do it.
So let’s learn how to do it.
How to Make a Delicious Non-Fishy Fish Broth
Make sure you use the carcasses from non-oily whitefish such as cod, sole, snapper, haddock and hake. Any non-oily fish works fine. Avoid oily fish like salmon, tuna, herring and swordfish (though their flesh works great in chowders and other fish-based soups).
Also, if possible, try to get some fish heads in addition to the carcasses. Generally speaking, you probably won’t get much using chicken feet in my bone broth!from just fish carcasses. But the gelatin-rich fish heads, prized throughout Asia, are another story. Note from Katie: hopefully we can all “get over” using fish heads, much like I got over
Finally, as opposed to other types of bone broths, be sure to dice the veggies fine. This allows them to release their flavors more efficiently with the shorter cooking time.
Here’s my simple 5-step recipe with the optional use of fish heads:Print
- 1–2 non-oily fish carcasses from cod, sole, haddock, hake, etc.
- 1 Tbs. butter
- Vegetables, diced fine – 1 onion, 1-2 carrots, 1-2 celery
- 1 c. dry white wine, optional
- Herbs, optional – 3-4 sprigs thyme, 2 bay leaves, ½ -1 tsp. peppercorns
- Cold, filtered water, to cover
- 1–2 fish heads, gills removed
- Simmer veggies in butter over medium heat for about 5-10 minutes. Place fish carcasses, fish heads (if using), herbs and peppercorns over veggies, cover and simmer 5-10 more minutes. This will stimulate the fish to release their flavors before adding the water.
- Add wine (if using) and water to cover the carcasses and bring to a simmer and skim scum that forms on the surface. The scum won’t hurt you! It’s just some impurities that get released. This happens in all types of bone broths.
- Simmer gently 45-60 minutes.
- Strain broth from carcasses and veggies or use a fish spatula to scoop out solids.
- Store in the fridge for up to 5 days. Freeze whatever you won’t use within that time.
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A Sample Recipe from Fearless Broths and Soups
OK, so now you have some fish broth.
Well the simplest way is to make some fish broth-based soups and stews! A great place to start is by making a very basic cioppino.
Cioppino is an Italian fish stew that originated in San Francisco. It combines a variety of seafood in a tomato-based fish broth. Its straightforward simplicity and variability is what I love about it.
Basically, take whatever seafood you want and simmer it in a simple base of fish broth, wine, tomatoes and herbs. It’s really that easy. And totally addictive. Throw in a mid-summer ocean-side setting, a sunset, good friends and family and a bottle of wine (or three) for the ultimate cioppino experience. For me, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Below is the simple 3-step recipe from my new book, Fearless Broths and Soups. It’s not set in stone. As with all the recipes in the book, I encourage you to improvise and find what you like. Ingredient amounts are adjustable to your personal tastes. Sub whatever seafood you want – lobster, scallops, other types of clams, crab, other types of fish, squid, etc. Needless to say, the fresher the seafood, the better.
So don’t use frozen fish sticks!Print
Printed with permission from Fearless Broths and Soups.
- 1 qt. fish broth
- ½ – 1 . dry red wine
- ½ – 1 lb. mussels and/or steamer clams
- ½ – 1 lb. shrimp, removed from shells
- ½ – 1 lb. white fish, chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 3–6 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes
- 4–5 Tbs. tomato paste
- 5–10 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2–4 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley
- 2–4 Tbs. fresh basil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat and sauté onion and garlic until softened and fragrant about 5 minutes.
- Add wine, fish broth, tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs. Bring to a boil then turn down heat and simmer gently for about 10-15 minutes.
- Add the mussels and/or steamers and simmer until the shells open, about 4-5 minutes. Next, add the shrimp and white fish and simmer until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes. Top with parsley and basil and add salt and pepper to taste.
Learn to Make More Soups from the Sea
Cioppino is just the tip of the iceberg! There are SO MANY simple fish broth-based soups and stews you can easily make at home. If you’re new to making fish broth, my new book, Fearless Broths and Soups: Ditch the Boxes and Cans with 60 Simple Recipes for Real People on Real Budgets, has an entire chapter devoted to fish broth-based soups which I call “Soups from the Sea.” And just like the cioppino recipe above, all of the recipes are broken down into 3 simple steps. It also includes:
- Basic Bouillabaisse
- New England Clam Chowder
- New England-Portuguese Clam Boil Soup
- Spicy Cilantro-Lime Seafood Soup
- Simple Asian Seafood Soup
- Thai Coconut Green Curry Seafood Soup
- Thai Hot and Sour Seafood Soup
- Mango-Coconut-Curry Mussels Soup
- Mohinga (a Burmese noodle soup which is the absolute BOMB!)
There are also dozens more broth and soup recipes that use more standard broths like chicken and beef. With chapters on Asian noodle soups, creamy vegetable soups, simple sausage and meatball soups and simple broth-based breakfast recipes for those rushed AM hours, there’s a little something for everyone.
It was a joy to write this guest post and share my love of fish broth! I hope I’ve inspired some of you ardent seafood haters to give real fish broth a chance. And I hope I’ve inspired many of you real foodies to add fish broth to your bone broth repertoire.
Craig’s other interests include hiking, playing his guitar, travel, and rooting for his beloved New York Giants. He also loves coffee and claims to be only mildly addicted to it.
You can connect with Craig over on his blog, Fearless Eating, on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.