This hearty and flavorful soup will transport you to southern France with your first spoonful. A fragrant, saffron and fennel scented soup has a tomato base and luminous chunks of tender white fish.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 rib celery
- 2 small carrots
- 1 cup onions, peeled, small dice
- 2 cups fennel, cleaned and sliced thinly (from one medium bulb)
- 6 medium fingerling potatoes, sliced 1/4″ thick (one cup)
- 1 strip orange rind, pith removed (about 3″ long)
- ¼ teaspoon marash pepper*, or hot pepper flakes to taste
- 2 large pinches saffron
- 2 medium herb sprigs, thyme or rosemary (or both!)
- 1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 28 ounce can, plum tomatoes, diced or plum (San Marzano)
- 1 cup fish stock, homemade, can use clam juice
- 1 ½ cups vegetable broth
- 2 pounds firm white fish filets**
Heat the olive oil in a heavy 3 quart non-reactive soup pot, I’ve used a enameled cast iron one.
Raise heat to moderate. Add the celery and carrots to a small food processor and pulse until finely diced (will have almost one cup.)
Can dice by hand too. Add them with the onion, and cook stirring for 5 minutes until softened, but not colored.
Add the fennel, potatoes, orange rind, marash pepper (or hot pepper flakes), saffron, herb sprigs and tomato paste. Stir one minute to blend the flavors.
Add the remaining ingredients, reserving fish: white wine, plum tomatoes and their juice (crushed with your fingers), fish stock and vegetable broth.
Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, give a big stir and cover.
Cook for 20 minutes or so, until the potatoes are tender, and mostly cooked through.
Meanwhile, cut the fish filets into 1 1/2″ cubes, (trim the skin from the monkfish and discard.) Add 1/2 t. grated orange rind now if you like, adds a good extra zesty flavor.
Add the fish to the pot and stir well. Cook at a bare simmer for 8 – 10 minutes until the fish just flakes and is cooked through.
Test a piece of fish after 8 minutes – do not overcook, the fish will continue to cook in the hot broth.
To serve: Ladle the soup into individual bowls.
Garnish with plenty of chopped parsley and a slice or two of garlic toasted baguette slice on the rim of each. Top with creamy rouille if desired. Garnish with fennel fronds (the feathery top of the bulb.)
Rouille Sauce: (Garlicky- Mayonnaise)
In a small 3 cup capacity bowl, add the reserved 1 T. roasted garlic and the egg yolk, mix well with a whisk. Add the tomato paste, cayenne and a pinch of sea salt.
Measure the oil in a measuring cup, drizzle in SLOWLY – drop by drop at the beginning until thickening, then in a steady slow stream. Do not rush.
Add the lemon juice and taste for seasonings. For an extra-garlicky assertive flavor, add 1/4 t. minced garlic. Save any extra in a glass, airtight container.
* Marash pepper is imported from Turkey, is smokier and carries a little more heat than Aleppo pepper, but is very similar.
** I’ve used Blackfish, Sea Bass and Monkfish.
This recipe may not be reproduced without the consent of its author, Karen Sheer.
Serves 4 to 6.