April 06, 2010

Cooking is fun and I learned a long time ago secrets that make a recipe outstanding. A chef friend in Michigan, Chris Angelosante, onetime told me the secret to many of his dishes was basically “reduction”. The richness of the sauce not only added character to the main entree, but would also bring those sauce ingredients into the vegetable and starches that shared the plate. He knew his sauce was a favorite when the dishes were returned to the kitchen wiped clean by the bread from the basket, which was also left empty.

This tip has not only brought nice compliments to many of my dinner recipes, but has also allowed me to salvage what might have been a rather mediocre or even tasteless entree that needed to have some vibrant and flavorful sauce to gather flavor for the entree that needed help. From my perspective eating out should always be an adventure, but the real adventure is preparing your own meals and recipes. Although I have been proficient in the kitchen from the time I was growing up with my brother and sisters, I generally followed instructions from my parents or a recipe and rarely ad-libbed in the kitchen. Our two sons, Jason & Justin, also became proficient in the kitchen and for special dinners the boys and I would give mom a break and choose a meal from Gourmet Magazine to prepare for our planned guests. In every case the meal would consist of recipes that we had never before prepared. Using our guests as guinea pigs was fun for us and them. We were also maniacal at finding all of the ingredients that the recipe listed and not much has changed to this day when making someone else’s recipe. Sometimes this was very challenging, but the end results were always a great tasting extravaganza for all to enjoy.

Since moving to Sunset Royale, in the past ten years I have been able to take over the culinary duties and preparing meals is still fun. Now I also prepare my own recipes and I would like to share a personal tip on cooking and a wonderful fish stock recipe. Just as my friend Chris had clued me in so long ago on the importance of understanding reduction I will offer my opinion on the importance of stock. I don’t care what kind of stock you are making, the ingredients used and the preparation of the stock makes the meal. Stocks need to be rich and flavorful. If you are using store purchased broth I would like to suggest you go out to eat. If you are purchasing stock from the store and it comes in a can or carton, I’m sorry, this is not stock! If you have a special gourmet location that makes their own stock and also makes it available to their customers, you just might be on to something.

Recently our friends from Scotland who were staying in our Sunset Royale Siesta Key Beachfront vacation rental chartered a boat and asked me to go fishing with them in the Gulf of Mexico. I gladly agreed and planned on spending most of my time taking pictures and to also do a little fishing. I actually spent most of my time fishing and took two pictures. At the end of the charter our Siesta Key charter captain from Double G Charters, Gary Gilliland, was cleaning and filleting our fish and I asked him to please also give me the bones and heads. We had a fair amount of fish and I’m sure he thought this was a little unusual, but nonetheless after locking eyes with me and seeing that I was dead serious, complied.

That evening we prepared a meal for seven adults and two children with the Spanish mackerel we had caught that day. The meal came out great and the rest of the fish along with the fish carcasses and heads were added to the freezer for future meals and for a fish stock. I had placed all of the Spanish Mackerel heads in one freezer bag and following is my recipe for a wonderful, rich fish stock that will enhance your next fish chowder, seafood risotto, seafood sauce or whatever recipe you might have that calls for a fish stock.

Parr’s Siesta Key “Eyes Wide Open” Fish Stock

  • Spanish mackerel heads resting on sauteed vegetables
  • Siesta Key "Eyes Wide Open Fish Stock
  • Incredible Siesta Key Fish Chowder
  • 9-Fish heads-fresh or fresh frozen
  • 2-Large Leeks-light green & whites only sliced in 1/4″ pieces
  • 2-Carrots- peeled and sliced
  • 2-Large yellow onions-sliced
  • 5-Large parsley sprigs
  • 4-Large lemon grass leaves
  • 2-Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-pieces of whole mace
  • 2-Tbs sea salt
  • 2-Tbs peppercorns
  • 2-Cups dry white wine-not cheap (if you can’t drink it, you don’t cook with it!)
  • 12-Quarts cold water

Place onions, carrots, leeks, parsley, lemon grass, salt, peppercorns, in bottom of a large stock pot. Saute , stirring often, over medium high heat until leeks and onion start to soften, about 5 to 8 minutes. Do not allow onions to brown. Place fish heads on top and cover with wine and water over high heat. Bring to a rolling boil, skim the foam from the top and turn heat down to low/medium and maintain an active simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid into a large bowl (you can use a large colander for this). Remove fish heads with tongs from strainer and mash fluids from the rest of the broth ingredients in the strainer to add more flavor to the stock. Let stock cool and mix with wooden spoon. Pour two cups of broth into individual freezer bags and place in freezer for future use. Stock will keep for at least 6 months, but make sure you maintain enough stock out of freezer for a meal of your choice to be served tonight. You will find the stock to look rich and flavorful and it is.

After making this rich and flavorful stock I chose to make a fish chowder with some additional Spanish mackerel. This was without a doubt the most flavorful and richest fish chowder I have ever tasted. I hope you enjoy this stock recipe and obviously Spanish mackerel are not a necessary ingredient for a flavorful and rich fish stock. On the other hand, if you are a person who holds great fish stock in high esteem, I would choose a mackerel for my fish head of choice. Siesta Key Eyes Wide Open Fish Stock will not leave you wishing that you had added more flavor, herbs or spices to your stock. Just giving you a “heads up” and if anyone would like my fish chowder recipe, let me know.