Fall often brings some of our nicest weather. Unless we have a hurricane, you can almost hear the entire state breathe a great sigh of relief when the summer heat finally breaks. With clear blue skies, lower humidity and some welcome northern breezes, we can once again enjoy the outdoors in greater comfort.

It’s also the time of year when our appetites take a turn for the better, when we start thinking again of more substantial food. Visions of gumbo float though our dreams, but it’s still a bit early to make them a reality. Gumbo always tastes best when the first blast of arctic air comes our way.

This is a fine time to cook seafood soups, many of them lighter than gumbos, but still aromatic and full of flavor. Although recipes are often intimidating because of the time involved, it’s possible to make tasty seafood soups in short order. The four recipes I’ve included require only brief cooking. Two of them are done in 20 minutes, one in 30 minutes and the fourth in about an hour.

Most seafood soup recipes call for a fish stock made from fish heads, bones and tails – fish “frames,” as they’re called in the trade. For a flavorful fish stock, aromatic vegetables and herbs – such as onions, celery, parsley, bay leaf and thyme – are included. These ingredients are simmered in water for about 30 minutes and then strained. Fish stock is a wonderful ingredient, one that restaurants routinely keep on hand. Fish stock gives a soup added layers of flavor, depth and body. With a good fish stock, tasty soup is only minutes away.

The problem for home cooks is that we often don’t have access to the fish heads and bones required to make a good stock. Today, most people buy their fish already filleted. Oftentimes the supermarket fish counter doesn’t even have any fish heads or bones to give away; the fish were filleted before they ever arrived at the store.

If you can obtain whole fish, by all means make use of the “frames.” They are a source of great flavor. However, if you only have fillets, or if you haven’t the time or don’t want to bother with making fish stock, there are other ways to infuse seafood soups with additional flavor.

As a base for a variety of fish and seafood preparations, canned chicken broth works very well. If you want to give it additional flavor, simmer the broth with chopped onion, celery, crushed garlic, bay leaf, thyme, parsley and white wine or dry vermouth, for 20 minutes or so.

Another way to improve canned broth is by the addition of ground-dried shrimp, as in the Saffron Seafood Soup recipe that follows. Dried shrimp is intensely flavorful and will do wonders in a soup. If you can find it, salt cod is also an excellent soup ingredient. Dried shrimp, unlike salt cod, doesn’t have to be soaked in several changes of water, but it is salty, so oftentimes it can replace salt in a recipe.

Bottled clam juice is another ingredient that can be used to advantage in seafood soups. I include it, along with chicken broth, in the recipe for Green Redfish Soup. Clam juice is also salty, so taste the finished soup before adding additional salt.

I enjoy all kinds of cooking, but soup making is one of my favorites. I love the alchemy of it – the melding of flavors, the transformation of a few simple ingredients into something both sublime and basic to life. When making soup, the cook can choose to emphasize a single flavor or blend it with other flavors to produce a distinct taste. Flavors can be simple or complex, robust and aggressive or delicate and muted. Indeed, making soup may offer cooks the greatest scope for creativity of any culinary endeavor.

Swordfish, Tasso and Potato Soup
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced tasso
2 medium potatoes, sliced thin
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves
8 ounces swordfish, sliced thin
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped scallions, green part only

In a medium pot over medium heat, combine oil, onion, garlic and tasso. Cover and cook until softened – about 5 minutes. Add potatoes, chicken broth, wine, bay leaf and thyme; bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are softened – about 20 minutes. Add swordfish, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until fish is cooked through – about 5 minutes. Season with lemon juice, salt, pepper, parsley and scallions. Makes 4 servings.

Saffron Seafood Soup
1/2 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dried shrimp
2 cups diced tomatoes in juice
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon saffron, crumbled
1 bay leaf
1 large strip orange peel
1 pound firm white fish cut into small chunks
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
6 tablespoons chopped parsley
6 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a medium pot combine oil, onion and garlic. Cover and cook over medium heat until softened – about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, grind shrimp to a coarse powder in a food processor. Add ground shrimp, tomatoes and juice, chicken broth, wine, saffron, bay leaf and orange peel to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover, add fish, bring back to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until fish is cooked through – about 5 minutes. Season with peppers and then add parsley and cilantro. Makes 4 servings.

Navy Bean, Andouille and Shrimp Soup
1 cup navy beans
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1/3 pound andouille sausage, diced
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped scallions, green part only

Cover beans with water and soak overnight. Drain.
In a medium pot over medium heat, combine oil, onion, garlic, pepper, celery and andouille; cover and cook until softened – about 5 minutes. Add beans, chicken broth, bay leaf and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until beans are softened – about 40 minutes. Using the back of a large spoon, mash some of the beans against the side of the pot to thicken soup. Cook until soup is creamy – about 10 minutes. Add shrimp and cook 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; add parsley and scallions. If soup is too thick, thin with additional broth or water. Makes 4-6 servings.

Green Redfish Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup bottled clam juice
1/2 cup white wine
1 pound redfish cut into small chunks
2 tablespoons lime juice
4 teaspoons capers, drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 tablespoons minced chives

In a medium pot combine olive oil, onion and shallots. Cover and cook over medium heat until softened – about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth, clam juice and white wine; bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover, add fish, return to a boil, then simmer until cooked through – about 5 minutes. Add lime juice and capers, season with salt (if needed) and pepper. Add dill, chives and parsley. Makes 4 servings.




You Might Also Like

Don’t Forget to Remember

Remember to check out these longtime favorites along the Gulf Coast.

10 Top Places to Stay Along the Gulf Coast

Events and Highlights

Capital Touring on the Cajun Prairie

The land of music, smoked meats and festivals

Exploring Louisiana

44 of the best places to go.

Add your comment:

Latest Posts

Do You Know What It Means?

To Miss New Orleans

Baby Mine

Her first day of school. My last time watching a kid of mine have her first day of school

Save the Dates!

Embracing It All

Fresh and Fast

Easy eats that help maximize your summer leisure time.