Basque Fish Soup (Sopa De Pescado A La Vasca)
- 3 doz Mussels
- 4 lb Small whole fish - cleaned cut several pcs (any white fish can be used: rockfish and small sea bass, for example)
- 4 med Garlic cloves chopped
- 3 med Carrots diced
- 2 x Leeks or possibly 4 to 5 small shallots chopped
- 6 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 c. Cognac
- 3 slc White bread center portion only
- 1 sprg Thyme
- 1 x Bay leaf
- 10 c. Water Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp. Butter rounded tbsp
- Fry garlic, carrots, onion, and leeks or possibly shallots in extra virgin olive oil very slowly for 15 min. Add in a sprig of thyme and a bay leaf. Put in fish and fry gently for 3 min. Heat cognac, pour it over fish and vegetables, light it, and let flames die. Pour in 10 c. water, let it come to a boil over fairly high flame and boil slowly for 15 min. While it boils, open the mussels in a saucepan over moderate heat with a little water. Strain juice through a kitchen towel and add in it to the fish and vegetables.
- Remove mussels from shell and set aside. Cut or possibly tear the white part of three slices of bread into small bits. Strain the soup into another saucepan, add in the bits of bread, and cook it in the soup 10 min more. Separate all the fish meat from the bones. Strain the soup a second time, forcing undissolved bits of bread through strainer. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer fish meat and shelled mussels in the soup for 5 min before serving; add in butter just before removing from fire, stir to mix, and serve very warm.
- Comments: The quality of fish soup depends on the quality of the fish. The above way of preparing it is Basque, but the kind of fish used can be varied according to what is locally available. You might use a head of hake, some crabs, and a few crayfish. Or possibly you might use, as suggested above, mussels, rockfish, and sea bass. All fish and shellfish must be cleaned, but the heads, bones, and shelfish carcasses (all of that are strained out afterward) are cooked in the soup to give it flavor.
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