Saturday, December 7, 2013

Russian Fish Soup

This - уха ("ukha") in Russian - is one of those dishes that every grandmother makes her own special way, so if you're Russian and reading this, please stop now! This is my blend of several recipes, whereas you have your own tradition to keep! (Plus you'd probably read this and go, 'He thinks you should put WHAT in ukha!?')

Since this is a blend of several recipes it's been entirely adapted to my tastes. (Sauteeing some of the ingredients and garlic, for example, wasn't called for in any of the recipes I looked at.) If you don't like something - the potatoes perhaps - or prefer cod or another white fish to tilapia, then by all means drop it or switch it out! Recipes are for cooks what rules are for artists, guidelines to help you figure out the basics until you can create your own masterpieces attuned to your tastes and the ingredients you're using.

And lastly, I know you're supposed to use fish heads and boned fish to give the stock its full taste, but I find picking bones out of my soup - before or after it's been served - to be a monumental pain and didn't want those blank eyes staring up at me from my bowl, so I just used straight up fillets for this. If you want to be a purist, then by all means use the above :-).

Russian Fish Soup / Ukha

2 tablespoons of Smart Balance Light
2 onions (chopped)
4 celery ribs (chopped)
3 large carrots (sliced)
4 cloves of garlic (chopped/minced)
14 cups of water*
2 tablespoons of Better Than Bouillon (or to taste)
1/2 cup of white wine
4 large bay leaves
1 bunch of parsley (chopped)
2 tablespoons of dill (chopped)
Pepper (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
4 large potatoes (cubed)
2 pounds of tilapia (cubed)

*I like to make a lot of soup so that there's leftovers - soup's always better after a day or two. If you want to make less, then reduce the amounts accordingly.

1) Lord, bless!
2) Sautee the onions, celery, and carrots in the margarine until the onions begin to become translucent. Add the garlic and sautee another couple of minutes.
3) Add the remaining ingredients - excluding the potatoes and fish - and bring the stock to a boil. Once it's boiled, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 to 60 minutes.
4) Return the soup to a boil, add the potatoes and tilapia, and cook until done. (Perhaps 20 minutes?) I do not skin the potatoes because the skin's good for you (and tastes good too!) and I enjoy the taste/texture, but this is pretty much anathema to Russians, so to be authentic skin your potatoes first. (And if you're Russian and reading this in horror, I told you not to! You have only yourself to blame! ;-) ) If you want your potatoes softer, then put them in first and let them be for a bit. If you want the tilapia to permeate the soup, then throw it in at the first boil and it should have completely fallen apart by the time you add the potatoes.
5) Serve the soup with what remains of the white wine - unless you drank it all while cooking, which is also a good option ;-) - and perhaps a dollop or two of sour cream if you're not fasting, and enjoy! Some sprigs of fresh dill might also make a nice garnish, or even a little squeeze of lemon juice.

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