Happy 2012, kids!
If December is the month of butter and sugar, then what defines January?
And don't you go around thinking I'm going to say green monster smoothies and baked boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
No, January is more the month of soups and stews. Food that is nutritious, but also still a little bit indulgent. Because who are we kidding? Even though the days are slowly getting longer, there's still a good 3 or 4 months of winter left- snow in early June if you're my brother-in-law up the mountainside on the other end of town. My husband's still going to work with long john's under his jeans, Lasse's still going to freeze his right hand (because wearing a mitten prohibits any thumb sucking and he certainly isn’t having any of that), and I'm still going to crave anything and everything hearty- root vegetables, savory stocks, heavy cream, and North Sea fish.
A while back someone requested I post a soup recipe.
In the back of my mind, I was thinking, yea, I make a good cookie, I make a good cake, but at the risk of sounding like an arrogant transplanted baker, what I make waaaay better than most is a creamy fish soup. Norwegian fish soup. Maybe my readers would like the recipe for it.
Of course, I don’t go by a recipe when I make fish soup. I don’t go by recipes at all when I cook. Which is partly why I so rarely post recipes for non-bakey type items- I don’t want to throw you all off course with my “sort of/kind of how you make it soup” recipe and have you end up with a big kettle of fish-ick.
Which is why I’ve taken the liberty to carefully write down how I make this soup- the queen of winter soups. Fish soup for your soul. Fish soup any Norwegian great granny would be glad to eat.
Now, as for the specific ingredients, I tend to stick to salmon, plus usually a white fish, and sometimes some shrimp or mussels if they’re cheap and good (shrimp in the summer, mussels now). But just use what is fresh and what you like. Carrot and leek are generally the vegetables of choice, but I’ve also made this with shallot and celery root (fancy fish soup!), rutabaga, potato, and chive (peasant fish soup)- it’s nice to have a member of the root veg family and a member of the onion family. The only real necessities are that you use a decent fish stock and at least a dash of heavy cream at the end (although you certainly won’t regret it if you accidentally dump in the entire carton). A heavy snippet of fresh dill is always nice, too.
This has become a soup that I make at least once a month. Often times for company, because almost all Norwegians love fish soup, yet very few actually can, or will bother to make it from scratch and they become quite impressed when a humble (ahem) little American girl from the heartland plops a steaming bowl of rich, warming, satisfying, and fragrant homemade fish soup in front of them. All you need on the side is a basket of fresh bread and a plate of butter.
Norwegian Fish Soup
*A Transplanted Baker Original*
(makes 4- dinner portion servings)
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 leek, washed well, and sliced into thin strips (toss out the darkest green portion)
* optional: 1 potato, peeled and diced, 1/2 cup rutabaga (peeled and diced), 1/2 a celery root (peeled and diced) or 1/2 cup cauliflower, cut into small florets
3 Tablespoons (divided) butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups (1 liter) (or more) good fish stock, warmed
1- 1 1/2 lbs. Fresh fish (one or more of the following are good: salmon, ocean trout, cod, pollock, monkfish) skin and bones removed, and cut into largeish bite-sized pieces (you don’t want the pieces too small, or they’ll fall apart in the soup)
* optional: handful of peeled and deveined shrimp, or washed and scrubbed mussels
2 cups (1/2 liter) milk, low-fat or whole
Heavy Cream- as much as you please (preferably about 1/2 cup/125 ml)
Salt and Pepper to taste (white pepper is nice, if you have it on hand)
1-2 teaspoons sugar
Good squeeze of lemon juice
Choose from the following to garnish: snippets of fresh dill (my preference), fresh chives, fresh flat leaf parsley, fresh thyme, very thinly julienned carrots and leek
- In a large stockpot, melt one tablespoon of the butter and sauté the carrots and leek (or other vegetables you may be using) over low heat, 10 minutes, or until softened. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of butter, let this melt, then add flour, stirring quickly to make a roux (this will be the base of your soup).
- Add the warmed fish stock and bring the soup to a simmer. Your soup is nearly down, test to make sure your vegetables are cooked through, then add your fish and allow to simmer (not boil!) until everything is thoroughly cooked. If using shrimp or other shellfish, add those a few minutes after the fish, as they require less cooking time.
- Add the milk and cream, season with salt, pepper, and sugar. At the very last minute, add the lemon juice (the soup will separate if you add this before the cream or if the soup is boiling).
- When you are ready to serve, sprinkle the dill or garnish of your choice over each bowl (bright green herbs are much more attractive and flavorful then overcooked and wilted herbs). *if you have any leftovers, you can refrigerate, then re-heat over low the following day, but try to eat up all of the remaining pieces of fish before doing so and add more fresh fish to the reheated pot.