One of the most common cooking concerns in the kitchen is how to properly cook and enjoy fish and seafood. Fish and seafood are truly the most versatile and quick-cooking proteins available; add to that the lean, protein rich and heart-healthy benefits. So before a working dinner with Jody (this is where we recipe test, talk business, and usually enjoy a glass of wine!) I visited our good friends at T&J Seafoods on Strange Street in Kitchener to get the freshest fish they had that day, and lucky for us, Rick from Hope Bay was there with some just-caught whitefish. Contrary to popular belief, whitefish is not a generic type of fish that is white, but an actual species that is mild, fresh tasting and so versatile. Wild-caught whitefish comes from Northern Ontario.
To warm up a chilly night we experimented with it in a bouillabaisse (BOOL-yah-Baze)–a light fish stew that features saffron, fennel, tomatoes and an assortment of fish and shellfish. This is a great recipe to start with if you haven’t cooked with a lot of fish and seafood; it ensures that both are not overcooked. I made it with homemade fish stock and a splash of white wine. You can ask the folks at T&J’s for some fish bones to make a light stock. In total, with homemade fish stock, the dish took one hour.
Bouillabaisse (Serves 4-6)
- 1 onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 carrot, very thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 4-5 cups fish stock (or water)
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 cup of peeled and diced tomatoes (you can use canned roma tomatoes)
- pinch saffron
- bouquet garni: leek, peppercorns, fresh bay leaves, garlic clove, parsley stems and fresh thyme wrapped in cheesecloth – this parcel is simmered in the soup and then removed before serving
- 1 strip of orange zest (use your vegetable peeler)
- salt, to taste
- A little freshly ground pepper
- 2 lbs scrubbed and de-bearded mussels; discard any mussels that are already opened
- 8-12 large shrimp, de-veined
- 1 lb whitefish, skinned and pin bones removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1/4 cup combined chopped parsley and/or fresh basil
- Extra virgin olive oil, to finish
In a large soup pot, mix sweet onion, carrot and fennel in a little olive oil until soft, but not browned;
Add white wine and cook for 30 seconds;
Add fish stock, tomatoes, saffron, bouquet garni, orange zest and a pinch each of salt and pepper; simmer 10-15 minutes;
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Turn heat to very low and add mussels, shrimp and whitefish; place a lid atop the soup pot and cook for 3-5 minutes or until shrimp is pink, mussels are opened and fish is opaque – yes, this should take no more than 5 minutes;
Taste broth; season with salt;
Serve piping hot in warmed bowls; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with herbs and serve with crusty bread;
Enjoy; really enjoy.
Chefs Kirstie Herbstreit and Jody O’Malley are both Red Seal certified chefs. Together they run the company YouCanCook2, specializing in interactive dinner parties. You can also find them cooking at Entertaining Elements in St. Jacobs, where they hold private dinners for eight people. To contact the chefs, visit their website www.youcancook2.com.