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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Icelandic Fish Soup

Last August our family went to Iceland for Tom's marriage to Solbjorg Bjornsdottir. In addition to a great wedding celebration we enjoyed the gorgeous and green countryside (perfect for a desert dweller like me) and welcoming and kind Icelanders. We were introduced to some remarkable foods including fish soup, a treat since a number of us live in land-locked regions. One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to a small fishing town, Dalvik, which hosts a yearly fish festival. Townspeople opened their homes and yards to visitors and served fish soup to all. Late into the long summer evening, we carried our own bowls from house to house and ate until we could hold no more. After our return, I searched online and found this recipe so I can revisit and remember.


Icelandic Fish Soup

Adapted from:
Serves: at least 8

You should seek the fish of the highest quality. Of course, while in Iceland the fish we ate were Atlantic but I have found sources for Pacific cod and a mildly flavored salmon. A thick trout might work, too. The biggest problem for me is shrimp. In Iceland tiny shrimp were added to the soup, but I had a hard time finding that size last time I cooked the soup so I ended up cutting larger shrimp into pieces. The soup tasted great but tiny shrimp are more visually appealing.

This soup has some wine and sherry in it. If you avoid alcohol when you cook use more chicken stock as a substitute and increase the vinegar by double, but do it tablespoon by tablespoon, tasting with each addition. Lemon juice or zest might increase flavor as well. Don't use cooking wine which is mainly salt and additives (it is better to skip alcohol all together than use this stuff)

3-4 T butter
2 small onions, finely sliced
1 thin leek or half a large, finely sliced
2 ribs celery, finely sliced
1/2 c dry sherry
3/4 c dry white wine
6 c chicken or vegetable stock
3 T tomato paste
3 tomatoes, chopped very finely, or a 14.5 oz. can of tomatoes, drained and blended
a generous pinch of saffron (optional, but very tasty)
3-4 T wine vinegar (either white or red)
4 c small shrimp (without shells), more or less
5 c mixed fish--salmon, Arctic char, halibut, cod, haddock, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 c either half and half or whole, or a mixture--you can add more or less
salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pot or dutch-oven. Add the onion, leeks, and celery and cook over medium low heat until tender. It is better to allow these to sweat rather than cook at a high heat and risk scorching. Add the sherry and wine and bring to a boil and allow to cook for several minutes. Add the stock, tomato paste, canned tomatoes (see note below), saffron and vinegar. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the fish, shrimp, and (if using) fresh tomatoes and return to a low boil. Simmer for 5 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in cream and allow to heat but don't return to boiling since the cream may curdle. Serve immediately.

Note on tomatoes:  If you use canned, add them with the stock. If you use fresh, add with the fish.

Note on shrimp: In Iceland, sometimes the shrimp were cooked separately and spooned on top of the soup in a diner's bowl. You may prefer doing it this way, as it would keep the shrimp from accidentally overcooking.

Sol and soup

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