Chicken noodle, beef vegetable, broccoli cheddar — we all have our list of favorite soups that both warm us up and fill us up on cold winter nights.
Often there’s one ingredient notably missing in those lists: seafood. Maybe it’s because in wintertime we lean toward heavier, more caloric soups. Maybe it’s because we don’t have have seafood on hand, except when we plan ahead.
Whatever the reason, it seems that seafood gets short shrift in the soup department.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Especially for people who are aiming for lighter foods and less meat and cheese in their diet, seafood soups can be a good choice. Seafood offers lean, heart-healthy protein and it can be used in a wide variety of soups, from simple broths to creamy chowders to crowded and colorful chunky bowls.
Perhaps one obstacle to making seafood soup for some people is fish stock. It just seems like a lot of work — despite cooking in about a half-hour — and traditional recipes call for the scraps from whole fish — heads and all — that are not as common in stores that focus on more convenient fillets.
But in the case of seafood soup, fish stock isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker. Sure, a soup made with fish stock will have more fish flavor than one without, but sometimes a good vegetable broth is a close runner-up. And if you’ve made fish stock from scratch only to have it come out a little too, well, fishy, vegetable broth can be the better choice.
One way to avoid an overly strong fish stock is to use only the skin or bones and not the head. This opens up the possibility of getting stock out of the trimmings from fillets and not having to buy a whole fish.
Another way to avoid a fishy broth is to use shrimp stock instead. That may seem odd in a soup that calls for, say, flounder, but shrimp with shells are easy enough to find in markets and the shells give a really wonderful flavor to broth.
An advantage to seafood soup is that fresh seafood isn’t necessary. Of course, you want to use the best quality seafood you can afford, and fresh is usually best, but often frozen seafood works fine. In fact, frozen seafood is recommended in the accompanying cioppino recipe that’s prepared in an Instant Pot because it helps guard against overcooking.
And in the recipe for salmon chowder, author Naomi Tomky of “The Pacific Northwest Seafood Cookbook” says that canned salmon or leftover cooked salmon works perfectly well.
Clam may be the favorite when it comes to seafood chowders, but more people might go for salmon if they’d try it. Salmon makes a deeply flavored, hearty chowder that’s perfect this time of year. A little bit of mustard and lemon zest help boost the flavor. It’s simple to make but very satisfying.
The recipe for cioppino — which many people characterize as a stew — comes from “No-Thaw Paleo Cooking In Your Instant Pot” by Karen S. Lee (Page Street Publishing). This dish is chock-full of squid, mussels, shrimp, scallops and fish. Using frozen seafood allows the cook to dump in all the main ingredients at once. Ten minutes on low in the Instant Pot pressure cooker is all it takes for a richly flavored seafood supper that tastes as if you’ve been cooking all afternoon. You’ll want to serve this one with bread to sop up every last drop.
Seafood can also be made in a slow cooker, as seen in the accompanying recipe for fisherman’s soup from “The Greek Slow Cooker” by Eleni Vonissakou (Page Street Publishing). The recipe involves cooking all the vegetables for 7 or 8 hours in a slow cooker. Then when you come home from work, you can puree the mixture, add the fish fillets and be ready to eat less than 30 minutes later. This is soup from scratch at its easiest.
Finally, if shrimp is tops on your list, try a spicy rendition from Cajun country — with red beans, Cajun spices and plenty of garlic and colorful vegetables.