Fish soups are called ‘brodetto’ in Italy and every Adriatic coastal town has their own version. Brodetto di San Bendetto is flavored with green tomatoes, Brodetto di Porto Recanati with saffron, alla Fanese with tomato puree, and in Ancona with puree AND fresh tomato. I don’t live near the coast, I like the French Provencal style of fish soup and I don’t have to play by the rules, so here is Brodetto di Montone.
Warning: it is messy to make, it takes time, the words slow, fast and easy do not appear anywhere within this recipe. However, the words delicious and worth the effort do appear.
The soup has three parts: the soup base, the crunchy garlicky toasts, and the saffron aioli.
1/2 kilo or 1 lb of small, whole fish
1 chopped carrot
1-2 stalks chopped celery
1 chopped onion
4-5 plum tomatoes
1 cup tomato puree
1/2 cup brandy
Salt, pepper, olive oil
1/2 kilo of mussels, or shrimp or clams
Saute the carrot, onion, celery in a few tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot. A little brownage is OK, but not too much. Add a 1 1/2 liters of water to the pot, bring to a boil, and toss in the whole fishies.
Now, if you can’t get an assortment of small fish, get whatever non-oily fish that you can find that still has it’s head on, or at least has bones. Under no circumstances use frozen fish fingers. Bones are flavor. If you use a fish filet you wont’ get the the depth of flavor. Oily fishes are too strongly flavored, so avoid fish like salmon or mackerel. Let simmer for about 20 minutes and then turn off the heat.
While the stock is cooking, make the aioli.
Lemon Saffron Aioli
1 medium egg, yoke only
1 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 small-medium lemon
1 T mustard
1 medium size HOT chili pepper, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
In a heavy bowl, add the egg yoke, mustard, garlic and chili pepper. In a little dish, steep the saffron in the lemon juice. Now, slowly, slowly, in a thin thread, whisk the olive oil into the egg yoke, mustard, garlic & chili pepper. You are making an emulsion, so the oil must be incorporated fully before you can add more oil. You’re not making that much, so don’t bother with the food processor, a little whisking is excellent aerobic and upper arm exercise, quite whining. If the sauce breaks, which means it doesn’t look like mayonaise, it looks like oil globs in a sea of egg yoke, consult Harold McGee for repair instructions. When you are finished adding the oil, whisk in the lemon juice and saffron.
Store the aioli in the fridge while you finish making the soup.
Strain the liquid from the soup and put it back in the soup pot. What is left in the colander is the vegetables, the fish meat and bones. Pick through the pile, reserving the meat and vegetables, tossing out the bones and skin. This part is yucky, messy and hot. Get over it.
Put the fish meat back and vegetables back into the soup base and then either using a stick blender or a regular blender, puree the soup, adding in the tomato puree. Return to the heat, add the brandy and let it gently simmer. The soup is done. Bravo! Brava!
Crunchy Garlicky Toasts
1 stale baguette
2 cloves garlic
1/2 or more of a HOT chili pepper
1 T Oregano
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1/4 cup Grated parmigiana cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
Slice the stale baguette...if you only have a fresh baguette, slice it and stick it in a warm oven until the pieces are hard.
Blend all the other ingredients until you get a fluffy, mousse like consistency. Spread a bit of the mousse on each slice of bread and bake at a medium oven heat 300F/150C until the mousse is brown, melted, bubbly. Take out of the oven and let cool. Make more than you think you should because these disappear immediately.
When you are ready to serve the soup, toss in the mussels or shrimp or clams or whatever you want. When the mussels or clams are open, serve immediately with the toasts and the aioli.
The soup base freezes well, so make a big enough batch that you can freeze it and then you can have this delicious, worth the effort soup, anytime you want. Buon’appetito!