Posted tagged ‘fish heads’

Fish Head Soup For The Soul

February 17, 2008


Strange though it may seem, and personally I think it’s exceedingly strange, one of the two most common search terms that readers use to find my blog is “fish heads.”  The other, perhaps equally bizarre, is “scorpions and lavender.”  Now I ask you, is that what pops into your mind as the outstanding features of French Letters, fish heads and scorpions?  And yes, for those of you that have wondered, I do know what pops into some people’s minds when they think of French letters, but never mind that now.

So for all of you fish head fanciers, here’s a veritable fish head bonanza. 


The big fish stand in the market yesterday had the makings of soupe de poisson, which is French for “fish head soup,” for only 3 Euros a kilo.  That’s because there were hardly any rockfish involved; when there are, the price goes up to 22 Euros a kilo. 


The more-delicious rockfish are like the one prehistorically spiky little red guy in the front of this picture.  But his very solitude is what made my catch affordable, so I decided that the time had come to make soupe de poisson, and voilà.  After posing so fetchingly, these fish hopped obligingly into a giant pot where they boiled themselves into shreds.  After which I got to rub the resulting fish head slurry through a strainer, bones, fins, and all, in search of a moment of culinary ecstasy.

We won’t be eating the actual soup for a few days and it’s resting in a primal state in the freezer, awaiting some final enrichment and garnishes for an upcoming dinner party, so I can’t tell you yet whether it was all worth it.  It makes a dramatically huge mess, I can attest to that.


And I can also affirm that even the big one that got away has to watch his back.  And that yep, I did cook the starfish too. 

And look here, more fish head soup!

Il n’y a pas de poison dans les poissons

September 23, 2007

There’s no poison in fish.  That  sounds so simple in English, but I remember the phrase as the first big error I made on a French test, ever so many years ago.  Never mind how many years ago.

And even today, I’m finding the whole business of French fish baffling.  These fresh sardines were pressed upon me, practically forced upon me, and for free.  The fish guy, Monsieur le poissonnier, is either taking me under his wing or trying to get me to quit shopping at his stand forever.  In his southern-accented French that I can barely follow, he insists that I need twice as much fish as I think I need.  Every time.  And the stuff is expensive too, about $14-18 a pound, just like it would be at home.  But this time, close to the end of the market, he gave me a big discount, 7 Euros per kilo of discount on loup de mer, which is about $5 a pound in discount on a really delicious fish.   And then in addition he piled this mass of sardines into a bag and made me adopt them.  What can it all mean?

For me it meant learning to clean sardines.  For me it meant thinking of Fish Head Pie, aka Stargazy Pie, where the fish heads are all pointed up toward the heavens.  My fish heads were less inspired, landing willy-nilly in Beppo’s dish.


Let me report that while Beppo enjoys raw sardine fillets, he utterly disdains fish heads.  Perhaps he would have enjoyed them in a pie, but in their natural state of decapitation, non, merci.

And then I had to do something with the sardines.  And that something turned out to be this delicious recipe for Sardines Napolitano which I chose because I had a bunch of fresh mint in the fridge. 

Here’s my translation.  Crispy fried sardine pieces marinated in a wine and vinegar reduction with lots of fresh mint, on a salad with mint, tomatoes, and a few bits of hot pepper for good measure.  Ok, that was definitely worth all the mess and soucis with the fish cleaning.  I might even pay for them next time.

You can read more about my fish head fascination right here.