Ice fishing, from the freezer
Despite all the ice and cold this winter, the ice fisherman in the family didn’t much get out ice fishing.
Actually, it was partly because of all that ice and cold. All those subzero windy days are no fun on an open lake. Add in some illness, some projects, the faraway wedding of the son of his No. 1 ice fishing buddy — well, there seemed to be plenty of reasons to stay home.
I don’t go out ice fishing on frozen lakes, but I like it when my husband does. Mostly I like eating the fish, and we’ve missed our winter staple this year.
That’s why I went rummaging through the chest freezer in the basement a few weeks ago to see if there was anything available for a winter fish bisque. It was my own way of ice fishing.
Medley of goodies
I found some frozen seafood, a couple of filets of flounder and a bag called “seafood medley.” That’s a combo bag of frozen shrimp, clams, little octopi, squid and I’m not sure what else. It’s probably all the stuff that came up in the net when fishermen were trolling for something else.
We like to pick it up when we find it, for times when seafood soup is the only thing we need.
I found some red peppers from last year’s garden, and a bag of mixed vegetables — zucchini, broccoli, peas and spinach. And I found the last bag of fish stock, made from the bones and heads of the fish my husband brought home last winter.
“Hey, this is the last of the fish stock!” I yelled, just in case anyone in my house doubted the seriousness of the situation.
It would have to do.
I chopped some onion and garlic, and sauteed them in a little olive oil. While they were cooking, I chopped the frozen fish, which had gotten a little mushy but would do for soup.
I added the freezer vegetables, the fish and the “medley” and cooked them all together with a little salt and pepper, for a little less than five minutes. I took the pan off the heat so the fish wouldn’t overcook.
The roux thickens
In a saucepan, I made a roux with half a stick of melted butter and a quarter cup of potato starch as a thickener.
The ice fisherman has Celiac disease, so he can’t eat wheat flour (which is what you typically make a roux with). Potato starch works well as a thickener in gravy and soups. Corn starch thickens just as well, but it makes everything look a little gray. I like the potato starch better.
The roux gets very thick quickly. I added the fish stock in, a little at a time, stirring. When it thickened up, I’d add a little more, until I’d used the quart of stock. Then I added about half a cup of milk (cream would be better, but I didn’t have any).
And finally, I mixed in the fish and vegetables, brought them up to heat again, and served.
It was good. My son loves the little octopi. My husband can’t eat fish without missing his native Florida, and talking about all the “real” fish he used to catch down there.
“Still,” he said, “It’s good.”
Back on the ice
Not as good as anything you make with fish that was just caught, of course. And I think he got that.
Because the next week he and his best ice fishing buddy were out on the ice, and came home with a bag of yellow perch fillets.
He pan fried them with butter and salt, simple as can be, and we ate them all for lunch.
“Hey, Dad,” the boy said. “When are you going fishing again?”
“In & Out of the Kitchen,” is a wide-ranging food column written by Gazette staffers. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.