How to Make Homemade Fish (Fume) Stock
Of all the stocks home-cooks need to prepare for their favorite recipes, I’m guessing seafood stock is not at the top of the list. It has always been easy find both chicken and beef stock in your local market but hard to find seafood or fish stock.
That’s changing now and commercial seafood stock is now showing up on my supermarket shelves. But what if I want to make my own home-made fish stock?
Is Seafood Stock the Same as Fish Stock?
I think of fish stock as being made from the bones and body parts of fish only where seafood stock can be made with both fish and shellfish shells.
When I make risotto that calls for fish stock, I often use shrimp shells to make my own simple stock by adding them to a pot of water and cooking the liquid down by half. This is more of a shrimp or shellfish stock but it’s better than nothing.
Why Use Fish Stock?
Another great question. A well made fish stock can greatly enhance the flavor of all seafood recipes like risottos and pasta recipes dishes but it really reinforces the flavor of seafood sauces like Seafood Sauce for Pan Seared Fish Recipe.
A good fish stock also works wonders as a base for fish and seafood soups like New England or Manhattan Clam Chowder.
Fish Stock Ingredients
To me, a good fish stock needs lots of fish bones, maybe even a fish head or two. I know you are thinking, “where am I going to buy fish heads or even fish bones?”
If you are only purchasing boneless fish fillets like tuna, swordfish, halibut, or flounder, you are not going to have any bones or fish heads to make your stock. So what can you do?
1. Buy a whole fish like trout, flounder, branzino and fillet the fish yourself. Save the head and bones to make a tasty stock.
2. If you absolutely can’t stand filleting your own fish or cutting off the heads, make friends with your local fishmonger. Buy a whole fish and ask him or her to clean and fillet the fish but save the fish bones and head for your stock. They will be happy to do this for you.
3. If you are tight with your local fishmonger, ask them to save some bones or fish heads for you and they most likely will give them to you or sell them to you at a very low price.
Although you can use any fish available to make your good homemade fish stock, I would recommend you stay away from really oily fish like salmon or mackerel. These fish are very pungent and may give your stock an overpowering flavor.
It’s also important to clean the bones by washing them under water to remove any residual blood. If using fish heads, be sure to remove the gills to reduce any off tasting flavors and aromas.
You’ll be adding what professional chefs call aromatics to the stock to add additional layers of flavors. Aromatics may include onions, garlic, carrots, celery and leeks plus herbs like parsley, tarragon, cilantro and bay leaves.
It’s important to chop the vegetables into small dices or thin slices so there is more surface exposed to the water allowing for quicker extraction of flavors from them.
The goal when preparing a classic fish stock is to end up with fresh, clean, delicate flavor that is not over fishy in both taste and aroma. From my research, a higher ratio of clean bones to water offers the best results.
Making a fish stock at home is much faster than making a beef or chicken stock. In fact, you don’t want the fish stock to keep cooking down or it will become way too strong tasting and there’s the risk of giving it an overly fishy smell.
How long you cook your fish stock depends on how much you are making but it will typically take half the time it takes to make a chicken or beef stock.
Fish Stock Recipe
- 3 pounds fish bones fish heads or some combination of the two from non-oily, white fleshed fish like flounder, halibut, snapper, sea bass.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion peeled and sliced thin
- 2 carrots thinly sliced
- 1 leek cleaned and sliced thin
- 3 stalks celery sliced thin
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 7 cups cold water
- 2 tablespoons black peppercorns
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme leaves and stems - roughly chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh parsley leaves and stems - roughly chopped
- 2 bay leaves dried
- salt & pepper to taste
Clean the fish bones
- In a large bowl, place the bones (fish heads) and cover with cold water. Add a couple tablespoons of salt and stir to dissolve. Soak the bones for 30 minutes, drain and rinse under cold water to remove all signs of blood.
- Heat a large stock pot over medium heat, add oil and when the oil gets hot, add the onion, carrots, leek, celery and garlic. Saute until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes.
- Add the white wine to deglaze the pan and let the wine cook down for a couple of minutes.
- Add the washed fish bones (fish heads) and enough water to cover the bones and heads. This should be somewhere between 7 cups of water.
- Add the black peppercorns, thyme, parsley and bay leaves and bring to a boil. As the water is coming to a boil, a white foam will appear at the top of the liquid. Use a large spoon or spatula to remove the foam and as soon as the liquid comes to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer.
- Simmer the stock for 20 to 30 minutes. When done, remove from heat and let the stock cool down for 10 minutes.
- Carefully strain the stock through a fine mesh strainer into another pot or large bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
- If you are not using immediately, let it cool down for another 10 or 15 minutes, transfer to storage containers, cover and chill in the refrigerator.