My parents came over for dinner and my dad’s favorite dish is fish soup filled with different kinds of seafood. There are many varieties of this type of soup, including bouillabaisse from France and zarzuela from Spain. It can’t be a surprise that my version is Italian style and therefore called zuppa di pesce. The quality of this soup depends solely on the freshness of the seafood used, and there are hardly any ingredients besides the seafood itself. It is a very elegant dish that looks great to boot.
From sous-vide cooking we’ve learned that the ideal temperature to cook most fish is about 50C/122F. Above this temperature fish and other seafood become tough, dry, and flaky, but at this temperature everything is tender and juicy. For this soup we use the temperature of sous-vide cooking without using any sous-vide equipment.
If you let your fishmonger do the filleting for you, this soup is relatively easy to make. Just make sure you ask your fishmonger to give you all the heads and bones for the stock. You can pick whatever fish and other seafood is freshest, as long as you have some variety and include at least fish, shells and crustaceans. White fish is preferred rather than other fish like salmon, mackerel or tuna. You could also add scallops or squid if you like.
For 4 servings
1 monkfish, about 1 kg (2.2 lbs)
1 turbot, about 1 kg (2.2 lbs)
1 tub gurnard, about 500 grams (1.1 lbs) (rode poon in Dutch, galinella in Italian)
1 or 2 red mullets, about 500 grams (1.1 lbs)
(or substitute with other white fish)
1 kg (2.2 lbs) mussels
1 kg (2.2 lbs) vongole
(or substitute with other shells)
2 Tbsp fresh flatleaf parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 glass (100 ml) dry white wine
300 grams (2/3 pound) cherry tomatoes
2 Tbsp olive oil
For the stock
1 celery stalk
black pepper corns
Make fish stock from the heads and bones, carrot, onion, celery, tomato, and peppercorns.
Let the vongole clean themselves by putting them in water as salty as the sea (3% by weight, i.e. 1 liter of water with 30 grams of salt, or 1 quart of water with 1 oz of salt) for an hour or so. Rinse them with fresh water to remove the salt.
If using jumbo shrimp, peel them and make a stock out of the heads and shells.
Mix the fish stock with the clam juice (and the shrimp stock if you made it). Heat this to a temperature of about 55C/130F.
In summertime it’s nice to serve the soup lukewarm, but if you like the soup hot you can now heat up the stock to 85C/185F or so. Since the fish was only cooked to 50C/122F in the stock, fish proteins that have leaked into the stock will curdle when heated to a higher temperature. Use a sieve lined with a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to remove the scum from the stock and ladle on the hot stock instead. Please note that the fish may be overcooked if the stock you add is too hot.
This is outstanding with a complex dry Italian white such as a high-end verdicchio, a high-end soave, or a high-end greco di tufo.