Monday, August 1, 2011
Almost all fish stews and soups begin with a fish stock, so most national and regional cuisines have some sort of traditional recipe for making stock. Obviously, those cultures which lack seafood entirely are not likely to have a traditional fish stock, but they are the exception to the rule. The basic idea is the same across all cultures - boil the portions of the fish that have the most concentrated flavor, like the head, the bones and the fins, in a large amount of water and then reduce the quantity of water through boiling to concentrate the essence of the fish. Variations do exist - in some cuisines vegetables such as carrot, celery and onion are added to increase the flavor, and in others wine is poured into the stock for the same purpose.
Brazilian fish stock (caldo de peixe) is quite basic. It doesn't include wine like the traditional French court bouillon does, nor does it emply vegetables. It's a simple, elementary fish stock, nothing but the essentials. Unlike some variations, however, it uses not only fish head and bones but also fish fillets. The resulting stock, once it has been reduced, is strongly flavored.
Since many Brazilian seafood soups and stews include other strongly flavored ingredients, such as coconut milk, hot chili peppers and dendê oil, a weakly-flavored fish stock would add nothing to the flavor profile of the dish. Flavors of Brazil suggests that when you are making a Brazilian dish that calls for fish stock, you follow the instructions below. If you do, the flavor of your dish will approximate much more closely the authentic Brazilian recipe than it would if you were using another recipe for fish stock.
Brazilian Fish Stock (Caldo de Peixe)
Yield - 1 quart (1 liter)
1/2 lb (200 gr) white fish fillets (do not use strongly flavored fish such as salmon; best choices are sole, snapper, cod, etc.)
1 lb (450 gr) fish heads, fins and bones (from white fish as above)
6 cups cold fresh water
Thoroughly wash the fish heads, fins and bones. Rinse the fillets. Reserve.
Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan or stockpot. Add the reserved fillets, heads, fins and bones. Reduce heat slightly and boil for 15 minutes. Skim any foam that rises to the surface using a spoon or slotted spoon. Remove from heat, let cool slightly, then drain the fish through a sieve or colander, reserving the stock.
Return the stock to a clean saucepan, bring to a boil over high heat and reduce by about 1/3, so that you have 4 cups of stock. If you want a clear stock, drain through a cheesecloth lined sieve. (Most Brazilian recipes do not require this step). Use immediately, or cool and keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator or 2 months in the freezer.