I love to make fish soups and like with most things I cook, I try to let the ingredients dictate what I will be cooking. Recently, our fish department had some gorgeous red snapper so I went for it. I decided to combine my love for spice and Lebanese and Arabic cuisine to make up a fish soup.
Though this cuisine usually uses yogurt, I decide to use crème fraiche since yogurt is tricky and can easily curdle. Crème fraiche provides the tang and acid of the yogurt, with none of the complexity of dealing with the delicate cooking.
The beautiful thing about soup in general is that it is all about love- truly you can judge a good cook by their ability to make a soup (and a salad but that’s a different post!). Take the same care with soup as you would with anything you are cooking (ingredients, seasoning, doneness, viscosity, depth, etc.). Soups are generally NOT a quick thing to cook (be suspicious of soup recipes that equate quick with good), but the payout is generous, and usually worth at least two meals, depending on how many people you are feeding.
This recipe should feed about 6-8.
For the Fish Stock:
- 2 whole red snapper, gills removed
- 1 Quart White Wine
- 4 Quarts Water
- 2 cups small-diced celery
- 2 cups small-diced carrots
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 10 Bay leaves
- 2 T Black Peppercorns
- ½ bunch Thyme
To make the stock:
- Chop the fish bones in 5” pieces. Heads may remain intact but make sure the gills have been removed. Scrape or cut out any blood and/or tissue from the bones. Thoroughly rinse the fish bones in cold running water until the water is completely clear and there is no trace of blood on the fish bones.
- Place all of the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a soft boil, reduce the heat and cook at a simmer for about one hour. Skim the stock frequently to remove any scum.
- Remove from the heat and strain through a very fine strainer (chinoise). Cool and reserve. Discard all of the bones and mire poix.
- 2-3 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil, more for serving
- Flesh from two Red Snapper (see above); skin and bones removed; cut into2” cubes and marinated (tossed) in olive oil
- 1 large bulb of fennel, peeled as necessary to remove brown and tough skin, small-diced
- 3 large leeks, dark green removed, small diced and thoroughly soaked and cleaned
- 10 cloves of garlic, peeled and thin-sliced
- Sea Salt, as needed
- 3 preserved lemons, seeds removed, flesh and skin pulverized
- 1 Thai chili, minced after removing seeds
- 1 T toasted and rough-crushed coriander seeds
- 1 T Lebanese zahtar, more for serving
- Fish stock (see recipe above)
- 8 Fingerling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
- 3 small turnips, peeled and cut into ½” wedges
- 1, 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- Black Pepper, fresh from a mill, as needed
- ½ bunch Cilantro with stems, washed and chiffonaded
- Crème fraiche to taste
Sour Dough Boule Croutons:
- I medium boule, crust removed and hand-pulled into about 1” pieces
- Smoked paprika, about ½ tsp.
- Sumac, about 1 tsp.
- Salt, to taste
- Olive Oil, to coat, season and make the spices stick to the bread
Toss everything in a large bowl and toast in a 325* oven until completely crisp. Reserve.
To Cook the Soup:
- Sweat the fennel, leeks, garlic and salt in the olive oil until very soft. Add the preserved lemon, crushed coriander, zahtar and chopped chili. Sweat for an additional 5 minutes.
- While the vegetables are cooking, bring the fish stock to a boil in a separate pot. Season the stock with 1 T of sea salt. Add the potatoes and cook until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Do the same with the turnips. Lastly, quickly poach the fish in the same stock until just set and no longer opaque. Remove and reserve.
- Bring the stock back to the boil and skim any scum from the top. Add the stock to the pot of vegetables. Bring to a simmer, add the chick peas and continue to cook until the vegetables are completely tender. Skim periodically. Add a couple of dollops of crème fraiche to the soup, whisk well and cook briefly to incorporate.
- Add the potatoes, turnips and poached fish back into the soup. Check the salt and pepper and adjust accordingly.
You may serve the soup immediately or hold it for a day or two. (It’s probably better after the first day anyway!) If you are not serving this right away, make sure you cool it properly before storing.
Add the chopped cilantro at the last minute, only when you are serving the soup, so that it stays vibrant and fresh.
To Serve the Soup:
Put a handful of toasted croutons in each serving bowl. Ladle the desired quantity of soup into each bowl. Drizzle each bowl with your best olive oil and add another sprinkle of zahtar. Serve and enjoy!
If you are feeling extra ambitious- whip up a super garlicky saffron rouille to serve in and on the side of your soup. Make sure you have extra croutons on hand!