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Fish stock


chappie
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As someone who is always boiling down chicken and turkey carcasses (even having my mom save hers in the freezer for me), fish stock is something I've never mastered. Many sources cite differing opinions: some say cook it a long time (as in other stocks), others say only cook for 45 minutes.

I live a few blocks from an outstanding seafood merchant who is willing to supply me carcasses, heads, whatever I need. So where do I go from there? What kinds of fish make great stock and what parts? What is your method?

Also, what are your favorite uses for fish stock? Does it freeze well?

It just seems, especially with the availability of ingredients, something I should be doing on a regular basis.

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Great topic, Chappie! I adore making stocks and broths from seafood. Often it's just a matter of saving the watery juices left over from poaching or steaming. Here are some of my current thoughts on the topic:

1. Just about all the good flavors are extracted within a half hour, beyond an hour is too much.

2. A very gentle simmer is best.

3. I don't skim, I just filter.

4. If it's seafood then it can become a broth. Restrict yourself to the traditional firm white fish and you miss out on a world of great flavors. Salmon heads and smoked mackerel bits together is a wonderfully deep and complex combo. Collect all the lobster shells after a family feed and put them back in the pot.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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as a person who adores fish soup beyond reason and makes some mean stock

Peter gave you the best answer ever that is EXACTLY how I make stock

if I know what I am doing with it I will add some fennel or some herbs but if I am just making stock that is it!

less is more with fish stock I never ever boil

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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Is it that, unlike chicken stock, which I'll cook for quite some time to develop the gelatin (I would imagine doing so for beef stock also), fish stock develops bad characteristics/flavors when cooked too long?

If you do the initial simmer with caracasses, heads, etc. for a short period of time, then strain/filter, could you then simmer and reduce to concentrate flavor?

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I think you could very well concentrate it after everything is strained off for sure but get everything out and do it at a low heat

I have used a bottle of Pino Grigio with the stock and simmered it down after the straining for a soup I was making it was fantastic!

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I am sorry Peter but i dont agree with you...

Whitefish is a very vague classification... hell swordfish is a whitefish... which would add alot of unwanted fat into your stock.

Now the fish you would want to use is LowFat fish, which means fish that move slowly, eg: fluke, flounders, turbots, dory.

Now i work with more fish then you would ever imagine, so i have access to any kinda of bones i want.. However if you don't have flatfish as an option... you could use bass bones, or some type of lower fat fishes... you can tell fish fat by touching the flesh which will coat your fingers with oil... for an extreme example you could touch toro of the tuna and your hand will be covered in fat... See my post in Consumer under Kindai Tuna for the pic of fat on my hands....

The half hour of extracting flavors... well it may be true for seafood anywhere around 30-1 hour is best, however veal can go for 8 hours, and chicken about 4 hours, depending on amount of bones and stock your making.

medium to low simmer is best, you dont want it at a boil. What happens in a boil is the fat emulsifies with the water, causing your stock to be cloudy. Asian cooking uses high boil in their stocks as they want to infuse the fat into their dish... Where in french technique of stock making uses the low simmer to produce clear stocks, for consomme and more...

You should skim, skimming takes only a few seconds every 20-30 mins or so... your going to check your dish anyways, i doupt your going to leave it going on your stove, so just skim while your there... the less skum you have the less that can incorporate into your finished product when you do strain it.

Unless your making fish soup, DO NOT USE HEADS or FINS!! if you want to do it correctly Cut off Fins and Cut off heads, they both will add unwanted cloudiness to your stock in the end product. Heads contain fat, and again fat is NO GOOD in your stock.

I noticed you said saving liquids from poaching or steaming... a standard court bouillon is

Water, carrots onions celery, lemon and its juice, white wine, peppercorns, salt.... Usually you would want to poach the portions of fish or meat you are serving.... and technically the protein in the bouillon shouldn't be in there long enough to actually impart much flavor into the bouillon, but long enough that the liquid would go into the protein...

As for the recipe for Fish stock:

Fish bones

Carrots

Onions

Celery

Sachet (1 outside leaf of leek, small bunch of thyme, parsley, bay leaf)

Salt and WHITE PEPPER!!

Water

SO sweat the onions, add carrots cook for a minute or two to soften, add celery, add fish bones, cook the bones a little bit till the meat is white, add water to cover, bring water to simmer, add in sachet, simmer for 30 mins to an hour, depending on when you feel the flavor has extracted the most.

DONT FORGET TO SKIM, fish tend to have more skum then meat...

Somehow i feel broth is slightly different from stock... i cant quite put my finger on it... but its either more concentrated, or there are other aromatics that go into it...

Everything i have said above is from classic french techniques...

Edited by SeanDirty (log)

**********************************************

I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

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What are some of these fish soups you make?

thought you would never ask !!!

I make a wonderful Pacific NW Bouillabaisse ( that is where I cook down the stock and wine above first) and will if you want post the recipe but it is really a typical bouillabaisse with a few changes to make it regional

also a great fish chowder (like a clam chowder but with fresh firm fish (whatever I can find) and because I am from the East coast I use salt pork in that one)

ciopino is always good it is a brothy marinara loaded with seafood and fish

I make Caldo Siete Mares a wonderful fish soup

there is also a Korean fish soup I am sorry I do not know the name of that is very spicy and loaded with every kind if fish I can find

any of these recipes I will be happy to post if you like

(there are more :smile: ) fish soup in a bowl and that is heaven on earth to me!!!

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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I am sorry Peter but i dont agree with you...

Whitefish is a very vague classification... hell swordfish is a whitefish... which would add alot of unwanted fat into your stock. 

Now the fish you would want to use is LowFat fish, which means fish that move slowly, eg: fluke, flounders, turbots, dory.

What do you mean you don't agree with me? :angry::biggrin: You're right, low-fat ground fish make excellent classic stock -- if that's what you want. I just think too many cooks overlook the extreme deliciousness of fattier fish stocks.
. . . . The half hour of extracting flavors... well it may be true for seafood anywhere around 30-1 hour is best, however veal can go for 8 hours, and chicken about 4 hours, depending on amount of bones and stock your making.
My objection to a 1 hour simmer is that fine bones begin to disintegrate and the broth can get a bit chalky. Cloudiness from emulsified fats doesn't bother me as much as it probably should. I'm focussed on gently converting fish collagen, which is far less cross-linked than the equivalent mammal protein and therefore "more melty", into lovely fish gelatin.
You should skim, skimming takes only a few seconds every 20-30 mins or so... your going to check your dish anyways
I know I should skim, there are lots of things I should do. I'm happy with the results I get from filtering -- I use three nesting screens that are progressively finer. If I worked in a restaurant I might skim.
Unless your making fish soup, DO NOT USE HEADS or FINS!!  if you want to do it correctly Cut off Fins and Cut off heads, they both will add unwanted cloudiness to your stock in the end product.
Julia Child keeps the head on, and the fins too! She does remove the gills.

BTW thanks for introducing me to Kindai Tuna.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Great advice there. Stay away from heads, gills and skin, and also fish scales which will turn the stock grey. Ensure that no blood or bits of organs still cling on to the carcass.

Classically a fish stock only uses white vegetables: onion, celery or celeriac, leeks, fennel, but then no one says you have to cook classically.....

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My 2 cents, coming from Bengal, India, where we distinguish many types of extracts that include or exclude specific various parts of the fish for the particular flavors they impart to BROTH : entrails, liver. float bladders, racks. head. gill rakers, jaws as opposed to heads, heads, bloody carcass vs non-bloody, sauteed in oil vs passed through hot oil vs raw etc.

Add different species of fish, age, sex and season, that same fish caught in estuary, upstream or out at sea as in the case of Tenualosa hilsa, or Lates calcarifer, the barramundi, and then you can see how things become complicated. I am not pulling your leg, I assure you. Most Indian food writers in the USA today are merely the tip of the iceberg, better publicists than experts. Who knows when the TRUE regional experts will make their appearance? Just one has shown her face here so far!

You may guess we take a bit of interest in this matter!!! So, as far as my understanding goes, Sean is absolutely right in HIS sphere of expertise. BUT, if I can interpret Chappie's query sensu lato, he may be asking in the same in the same vein as Peter is replying, if he cannot create flavorful "stock-like" bases with fish heads, racks and trimmings that may be purchased from groceries. That might include brothy bases appropriate for a home cook to turn into soups, and for additions to fish dishes.

My one suggestion, latent also in Sean's direction to COOK the trimmings until white, is: if you are using stronger stuff like salmon heads, even king mackerel racks, cook or fry them in a large stainless steel pan. Think chicken thighs. Even brown lightly. This step does throw off a fair amount of fishy fumes, so you need a good vent. We rub these heads with salt and good quality turmeric and/or lemon, lightly, which deodorizes, and forms a light skin on contact with oil. It really will not affect flavors when you are putting in strong aromatics later, celery, onion, carrots. Remember the word "light" as in "barely perceptible", tiny pinches: this works its own subtle magic without getting into anyone's way.

Large halibut heads, as Sean says, have a good amount of fat, that make great broth but not stock. Yet, if you separate out the lower jaw, it makes a very rich fat-free delicate stock by itself. We distinguish such a stock from one made solely out of the rack, or the rack + lower jaw or the rack - the outer ""rays".

The most delicate flesh is available from just a couple of bones along the lower jaw. The most delicate stock is the liquid from between the vertebrae after the lightest of poaching. As you may appreciate, it is quite an expensive affair to put these two together!! As there is almost no fat other than that secondarily derived from the spinal chord, the clarity and delicacy of such a preparation demands the greatest attention and skill from the cook.

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V. Gautam:

Because of your post I now wish to visit Bengal one day and explore this unrivaled appreciation for fish. Thanks for the post. I live in the Chesapeake Bay region, so the type of fish most commonly available are white perch, rockfish (striped bass), croaker, flounder ... occasionally Spanish mackeral. We catch bluefish, but I don't think they'd make a good stock.

How are you differentiating stock from broth, by the way? Broth as in a simple broth made to be consumed as is?

Also, to all who have posted, what is a good starter recipe to use with fish stock to best appreciate its properties? This is all new ground for me. I've been cooking most of my life, but never this way.

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How are you differentiating stock from broth, by the way? Broth as in a simple broth made to be consumed as is?

There's a recent topic called "Is It Broth or Is It Stock?, And what's the difference?" over here.

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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How are you differentiating stock from broth, by the way? Broth as in a simple broth made to be consumed as is?

There's a recent topic called "Is It Broth or Is It Stock?, And what's the difference?" over here.

the topic above doesnt quite get right until about halfway through... i dunno why i blanked out before, but first off.

Yes white mirepoix goes into fish stock... :) sorry i had forgotten what went into a white mirepoix...

As for stock and broth, Stock is made of bones. Broth is made of MEAT!! rich luscious meat!! /drool :) that is the bottom line difference.

Bouillon is a cooked down stock i believe 2/3rds cooked down... cooked to a goopy mix is a glace.

Consomme is a clarified broth.

**********************************************

I may be in the gutter, but I am still staring at the stars.

**********************************************

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  • 1 month later...
i have come across some recipes using mushrooms when making fish stock,especially french chefs,whats the reason for adding mushrooms to fish stock?

Personal taste preference is all I can figure. I love the taste of mushrooms, and while adding them to fish stock is a bit unusual, the taste combination might be good.

I like the taste of Dashi, that combination of dried Kombu seaweed and dried Bonito flakes used in making Miso soup, and it's quick to make, so I use Dashi whenever a recipe calls for fish stock. Guess that borders on the unusual/bizarre!

Edited by Budge (log)
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I literally just learned to do this yesterday in my cooking class. Here is what they taught us.

For bones, use the remains of a filetted flat fish: sole, halibut, turbot, flounder, whatever you have. Some round fish are OK, but not delicate ones like trout.

We were given all flat fish yesterday, big ones, I think halibut. Hack them into pieces about 2" wide along the spine (it matters less how wide they are). Soak in cold water, preferably overnight, or under cold running water if not. This is called "degorger" and cleans the bones and flesh of scum and blood.

Mirepoix should be onions and leeks only, no carrots, no celery. You can use white mushrooms or trimmings if you have them or if you want to, but they are not essential. Thinly slice everything. This is called a "white mirepoix" and is used only for fish stock. Also, take a head of garlic, unpeeled, and cut it in half.

Sweat the mirepoix in butter. Don't color it at all. When the onions are limp and translucent, add the fish bones. When they start to turn white (about 10-15 minutes), add white wine, enough for form a thin layer at the bottom of the pan. Let that cook for few minutes, then add cold water. The water must be cold, they stressed. Cover the fish bones by maybe a finger or two. Throw in a bouquet garni, parsley stems, thyme sprigs, bay leaves and white peppercorns. Bring up to a near boil, without letting it boil, then turn down to low. Let it simmer for 20-30 minutes. There is no benefit from longer simmering, and the downside is you may cloud the stock.

When it's done, off heat, and ladle the liquid out and through a fine chinois. Degrease.

Edited by manton (log)
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Made a fish stock last night.. I started with three pounds of bones.. To a pot I sweated leeks, carrot, celery, garlic and onion.. Added some wine and the fish and then let the wine nearly evaporate..

Next I added the water and some herbs.. Bay and parsley, no thyme in the house and white pepper.. (Why tie herbs together if you just mash everything in a chinois?)

Let it cook for about 30 mins.. Then took off the heat and let it sit for another 15 minutes.. Mashed through the chinois..

It was cloudy I guess because it wasnt clear.. But I was not serving a clear soup.. I have a photo of it if someone wants to pm me on the proper way of sending a link.

Cooked some shrimp in oil, cooked some cabbage in oil and then stock, then added some butter and a little creme fraiche.. Then added the shrimp back in..

Through in some tagliatelli I had made while the stock was cooking..

It was fantastic..

Edited by Daniel (log)
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