Most fish markets will sell you heads, bones and trimmings for making stock. Use those from any mild white fish; avoid oily, strong-flavored fish such as mackerel, mullet, bluefish or salmon. If you like, add a few strips of lemon peel, a few white peppercorns, and some fresh fennel or dill sprigs to scent the stock gently. You can also replace half the water with dry white wine.
Recipe courtesy of Williams-Sonoma and adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library Series, Soups, by Norman Kolpas (Time-Life Books, 1993).
- 2 leeks, trimmed and carefully washed
- 4 pounds fish heads (gills removed), bones and trimmings
- 2 yellow onions, sliced
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 2 celery stalks with leaves, sliced
- 6 fresh parsley sprigs
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 quarts water
- Salt, to taste
- 1 Slice the white portion of the leeks and place in a large stockpot; reserve the green tops. Add the fish, onions, carrots and celery to the pot. Sandwich the parsley, thyme and bay leaf between the reserved leek tops and securely tie with kitchen string. Add to the pot along with the water.
- 2 Over low to medium heat, slowly bring the liquid to a simmer, regularly skimming off the scum that rises to the surface until no more forms. Cover partially and continue simmering gently for 30 to 40 minutes, skimming occasionally.
- 3 Line a strainer with a double layer of dampened cheesecloth and set it inside a large bowl. Pour the contents of the pot into the strainer. Discard the solids. Season with salt and let cool to room temperature. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Stock may be refrigerated for several days or frozen for up to 6 months. Makes about 3 quarts.