When I was buying the main ingredients for the soup I was actually torn between making bouillabaisse or Flemish waterzooi. Then day later I decided as it is summer and I have cooked the other two fish stews in the last six months, it would be nice to go back to my roots. Aside from that, Russian fish soup or Ukha is very light, it’s mostly just intense fish stock. Different varieties of fish is not important, unlike in bouillabaisse, as long as it’s just fresh. My mother used to cook it just from the whole skeleton of salmon, including the head. I ended up with salmon, black halibut and salmon’s head.
To cook the stock you need to cut out the gills (they can make the stock bitter, especially if the fish is not freshest, which you can tell by the colour of the gills – you want them dark red) and wash the head, put it in a crock pot and cover with 1.5 l of water. I also added celery, onion, carrots, bulb fennel and leeks. Let it boil around 1.5 hours and you have a beautiful stock ready to be strained. Don’t forget to take out meat off the salmon head, especially the cheeks. You will be surprised how amazing these things are in both taste and texture. A fish parallel to chicken oysters. (Why is all food always compared to chicken?).
I then bring the stock to a boil, add some julienne’d aforementioned vegetables which have been sauteed in butter beforehand. When the stock comes to a boil, I add a shot of vodka in it, take it off the heat and put pieces of fish inside the hot stock. Cover the soup for 10 minutes, and the fish is cooked perfectly to it’s utter tenderness. Serve, with a shot of cold vodka, obviously.
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