We are just over 3 weeks out from the Feast of Seven Fishes. And I must say, I'm getting pretty excited. For those of you unfamiliar with La Festa dei Sette Pesci, it is celebrated by Italians and those of Italian descent all over the world on Christmas eve. It is believed to commemorate the 7 sacraments. And to do this, seven seafood/fish dishes are prepared for family and friends. My wife and I will be hosting our 3rd annual celebration this year. And with Thanksgiving behind us, I am all about thinking of the dishes we'll serve this year.
So with that in mind, I did some experimenting on Sunday night. I was pretty excited that the fish monger at Whole Foods gave me a couple big fish heads (just ask them) to make stock. I've made veggie and chicken stock before, and they've turned out great. By the way, if you have the time it's cheaper and you'll consume a lot less sodium if you can make your own stock as opposed to the store bought versions. And it's so easy. But with fish stock I learned, there's a bit of a learning curve.
I threw both heads (I think one was red snapper) in with several cups of water with some garlic, onion, carrot, salt, fennel leaves, pepper corns and a bay leaf thinking I was well on my way to having some killer fish stock. After a simmer of about 45 minutes my wife walked into the house and almost fainted. I think her words were, "what the hell are you cooking?" I had not noticed the strong odor, but it hit her like a ton of bricks.
I turned off the burner after about an hour and let it cool on my deck to start the defunkifcation of the house. I then filled a couple big plastic containers and stuck it in the fridge still hoping for the best. And while it wasn't the worst stock around, it was in fact quite strong. Some might say overwhelming. But I still wanted to use it in a dish I'm considering for the Feast - cioppino.
But, I want to make a modified cioppino. This is due to a dish I had in Spain a few months ago called arroz caldoso (soupy rice). It was kind of like cioppino, but with rice and it had a lot of fabulous seafood/tomato broth. Trust me, it was to die for.
Anyway, my attempt fell woefully short. Although I bet you're saying - it looks pretty good.
I used arborio rice in the dish and man, did it ever suck up the 3 cups or so of fish stock (which I had reduced some) I poured in. It was still edible, I mean the fish, mussels and clams were all good, but the rice really did overwhelm everything else. So at this point, this dish is definitely not Feast-worthy. Back to the drawing board. I think for my next attempt I'll try it with shrimp stock. Wish me luck.