Q.: I read an article about fish sauce and how to use it in cooking, but there was no recipe for the fish sauce. How do you make it? Also, can you tell me how to make fish stock out of shrimp shells?
— Jim Nuznoff, Tallmadge
A.: Fish sauce is a condiment, like Worcestershire sauce. It is a popular flavor-enhancer in Asian cuisine and is made from fermented fish.
Just like Worcestershire, fish sauce is something you would buy, not make. Look for it in Asian markets or in the Asian section of your favorite grocery store.
Fish stock or broth, however, is something that easily can be made. Traditional recipes call for fish bones and heads, but you can use the shells from shellfish such as lobster, crabs and shrimp.
Here is a recipe from the Culinary Institute of America’s The New Book of Soups (2009, Lebhar-Freiedman Books). It calls for 5 pounds of fish bones, but you can substitute 5 pounds of shellfish shells.
Also, if you want to make fish broth and don’t have enough bones or shells saved up in the freezer, don’t hesitate to ask any seafood seller, who often will be happy to give you fresh fish bones.
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
5 lbs. fish bones from lean, white fish (see note)
2½ cups thinly sliced onions
2½ cups thinly sliced leek (white and light green part)
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1 cup white mushrooms or mushroom stems, thinly sliced (optional)
1 cup dry white wine (optional)
2½ quarts cold water
10 black peppercorns
6 parsley stems
2 sprigs fresh thyme, tarragon or dill
2 bay leaves
Heat the oil in a soup pot over low heat. Add the fish bones, onions, leeks, celery and mushrooms (if using). Stir until all the ingredients are evenly coated with oil. Cover the pot and cook without stirring for about 5 minutes.
Add the wine (if using) and simmer until the volume of wine is reduced by half. Add the water, peppercorns, parsley stems, fresh herbs, and bay leaves. Bring the broth just up to a simmer. Continue to simmer gently for 35 to 45 minutes.
Strain the broth through a sieve. Discard the solids. If the broth is not to be used right away, cool it thoroughly before storing it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 6 weeks.
Note: Shells from shrimp, crab and lobster can be substituted for the bones to prepare a crustacean broth.
Makes about 2 quarts.
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