Soupe de Poisson
To say I’ve had a dodgy start of the week would be an understatement. As sous-chef this week I’ve already made some major boo boos, my Crudités sucked, and I looked totally uncool while dealing with the fish today.
Dealing with a whole bunch of vegetables and herbs is not too complicated. So while arranging the kitchen was easy on Monday, motivating myself to produce a stellar raw-veggie plate was very difficult. But how could I have made such a mess of uncooked vegetables?? My carrots weren’t julienned enough, my cucumbers were salted for too long, the cabbage and celery had a bit too much vinegar and mayo respectively, tomatoes under-dressed. Did I get anything right on the day? Oh yes, at least I remembered to sign-in and get the copper pots in (which, of course, we didn’t even need).
Soupe de Poisson was catastrophic. We were each given a tray of rouget (red mullet), rascasse (red snapper), congre (eel), an unidentifiable freaky grey fish with a wierdly extended belly, along with bowls of live crabs and random fish carcasses. “Allez! Ébarber-Écailler-Dégorger-Vider!” commands the chef and we’re expected to prep all the fish in fifteen minutes. It took ninety minutes.
The blood and guts…okay, so it’s not a pretty sight and I’m sure there is a more efficient way than using my bare hands to pull them out because while the smaller fish co-operated, the biggies put up a fight. It was when I cut open the wierdly extended belly of the unidentifiable grey fish that I had to physically make a real effort to not hurl while the grey sludgy muck tumbled out. The chef says they were the eggs and apparently they taste amazing fried in duck fat. I’ll pass. A classmate’s fish’s gut spilled out a half digested fish head. Further hurling induced.
The crabs were a nightmare. I struggled to pull them out of the box as they were full of life and trying to get away from my tongs. After getting done with my embarassing theatrical hysterics I picked up a crab that was holding on to its crabby pal in a tight embrace, the Jack-and-Rose kind in Titanic, and as I couldn’t really get them off of one another I had the insane idea of killing them together. These crabs were small, smaller than my fist (and I have small fists). It’s hard enough to aim with my cleaver, and with them scampering around I was looking a bit like a mad psycho axe killer while making shreaky sounds. I whacked down the cleaver but missed the middle completely and only got their right pincers. They were now scampering away with their remaining pincers and I brought down the cleaver on them again, missing the second time. Fifth time on, I finally got them but they were still moving. It was one of those harrowing moments I really hope I can get over soon. Unfortunately, the fishy stench that seems to have permeated my core is an undying reminder of the horrors in the Garde Manger.
The worst thing about the whole day was that I hate Soupe de Poisson. Blending all the bones, heads and eyes together into the soup and pressing it through the chinois was a vile sight and the resulting liquid was runny and overtly fishy. I will not be serving this to people I care about.
Soupe de Poisson
1 whole red mullet
1 whole red snapper
5-8 mini crabs
1 carrot, sliced thin
1 leek, green part only, sliced
2 onions, finely chopped
0.5 fennel bulb, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, crushed, and half a garlic head, cut across the cross-section
1 celery branch, sliced
2 tomatoes, chopped
0.5 cup tomato puree
0.25 cup Pernod
1 cup white wine
2 star anise
Pinch of piment
Pinch of Spigol
1. Clean the fish (trim, descale, rinse, de-gut and de-gill). Chop into bits. Keep heads whole.
2. Heat olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pot upto 3mm). Sear the fish for 4 mins. Set aside and reserve.
3. Sear the crabs for 2 minutes until a little red. Set aside and reserve with the fish.
4. Cook the carrots, leeks, onions, garlic, fennel and celery together for 4 minutes. Add in fish and crabs and mix well.
5. Add in Pernod and white wine. Cook for a few minutes, mixing well.
6. Drop in the tomatoes, puree, star anise, bouquet garni, salt, piment, spigol, and cover the fish with water 3-4cm above the fish.
7. Cook for an hour and a half, skimming the top as frequently as possible.
8. Remove the bouquet garni, star anise, garlic head and crab shells. Blend soup. Press it through a strainer and bring to the boil again. Skim the top.
9. Serve warm with rouille, croutons and gruyere cheese.