Making traditional fish stock is almost exactly the same as making chicken stock from scratch. Fish stock can be used as a base for soups, chowders, stews and gumbos. It’s great flavorful poaching liquid for poaching fish. It can also be used to make sauces in the same way you would chicken stock or white veal stock (although obviously the resulting flavor will be different).
When choosing your fish bones, it is recommended that you not use bones from oily or fatty fish (for example, salmon, as wonderful as it is, is not well suited to fish stock). Leaner white fish are a better choice, and fish stock is a great way to use leftover bones from whole fish (we suggest rockfish/red snapper or rainbow trout).
How to Make Traditional Fish Stock:
1. Assemble your ingredients:
For fish stock you will need vegetables, usually a blend of carrots, onions, and celery (aka mirepoix), a bouquet garnis or sachet, and a large quantity of fish bones or lobster, crab, shrimp, or crawfish shells. The proportion used by many commercial kitchens is one pound of mirepoix and five quarts of water for every five pounds of bones.
2. Prepare your ingredients:
Wash & peel your vegetables. Chop them into pieces that are of roughly equivalent size.
3. Fill the pot with cold water, bones and bring to a simmer:
Skim often at this stage. Once the water has reached a simmer, back off on the heat in order to keep it there, and add your bouquet garnis/sachet and vegetables.
4. Simmer 30 to 45 minutes:
Unlike most bone stocks, there really isn’t much benefit in cooking longer, and in fact overcooking can damage this stock’s flavor. Be sure to skim as often as you can without losing your sanity.
5. Strain and drop your stock:
Strain your stock through the finest strainer you’ve got (with cheesecloth added if necessary) and quickly reduce the temperature (“drop”) by holding the stock in a container that is itself sitting in a container filled with ice water. Dropping your stock is particularly important with bone-based stocks for safety reasons. For further explanation of stock dropping, refer to the cardinal rules of stock making.
6. Store until ready to use
Stocks store in the fridge for about 2-3 days refrigerated (assuming you dropped them correctly) and will freeze wonderfully for several months.
There is one important variation to traditional fish stock called fish fumet, which is more strongly flavored due to the addition of white wine and other seasonings. Check out our Fish Fumet Recipe.