Irish Fish Soup for an Autumn Day

‘Twas a cold and drizzly Southern California autumn day. As the mercury plunged into the mid-60s and I watched the fog crawling around in the canyon, my mind turned to soup.

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I descended into the even more frigid depths of my freezer, looking for inspiration. Then, like an ice fisherman lifting a catch from a hole in a frozen lake, I pulled up a rock-hard filet of Atlantic cod. And the soup was on!

There are many directions you can go with a piece of frozen fish and a hankering for soup — a bit of coconut milk and lemongrass, for example, and you’ve got a nice Thai soup, or some fish stock, tomato and saffron, and you’re transported to a bistro in Marseilles. This particular afternoon, I was feeling something a little closer to my own roots.

I recall many years ago, driving around Ireland with my pal Dan. Oft a rainy afternoon we ducked into the nearest pub, looking for a bowl of warm soup. I don’t recall exactly whether we ever had a soup like this one — that was a lot of Guinness under the Ha’penny Bridge ago. But as I was stirring the soup, the scent of fish, thyme and cream brought the Emerald Isle to mind.

Yer man, out on the turf in Co. Donegal

Yer man, out on the turf in Co. Donegal

Critical to the success of my lunch was a loaf of crusty bread I had in the freezer, and some genuine Irish Kerrygold butter. Thick slices of the delicious bread slathered liberally with creamy Irish butter made for the golden dip sticks. If you make yourself Irish fish soup for lunch some cold afternoon, don’t skip this part.

As they say on the Isle: Ná déan deramad ar do lón! … “Don’t forget your lunch!”

And:

La brea ata ann d’anraith! … “It is a lovely day for soup!”

(Somebody correct my Gaelic, pleasssse!)

*    *    *

Irish fish soup
serves 4-8

2 quarts chicken or fish stock
1 lb. cod, halibut or other white fish, cut into small cubes
2 tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
2 oz. bacon, diced
1 tbsp. flour
2 medium gold potatoes, cut into small cubes
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper to taste
crusty bread
Kerrygold unsalted butter

Melt the butter in a soup pot or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and chopped onion and cooking, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and beginning to caramelize — probably around 5 minutes.

Add the flour and the potatoes, and cook, continuing to stir, for about 1 minute.

Add the 1/2 cup whipping cream, thyme and bay leaf. Turn heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Add fish and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Remove soup from stove and let cool to warm. Remove bay leaf. Using a slotted spoon, scoop about half the potato and onions from the soup into a blender (it’s okay if a few pieces of fish make it into the blender too). Scoop in 1 cup of the soup stock and blend to a smooth puree. Return puree to soup, and return soup to stove over medium heat.

Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining 1/2 cup of cream and stir. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve soup with thick slices of crusty bread slathered liberally with Kerrygold butter. (Or whatever is the best butter you have.)

Food for Your Ears

I recently released an album of my original songs.

“You should promote your album on your blog,” a friend said.

“But my blog is a food blog!” I protested.

My new album, available at CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and wherever fine music is sold.

My new album, available at CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon and wherever fine music is sold.

I wish I could say it was nine songs about food. But it’s not. It’s nine songs about all those things that relate loosely to food — love and sex, the pursuit of happiness, pondering our own bellybuttons, etc. More

A Two-Pie Kinda Night

I was trolling the aisles of Trader Joe’s, looking for inspiration for dinner, when I noticed the Sample Girl handing out samples.

“How’s your day going?” she asked — which is what the Sample Girl always asks.

“Good,” says I. “Whatcha got?”

“Chicken pie,” she said, handing me a tiny paper cup filled with a single bite of chicken pie, flaky puff pastry crust on top. And I had my inspiration. But rather than going for the pre-made stuff, I grabbed a chicken and some pie crust, and I was in business.

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“Find everything you were looking for?” said the Check Out Guy — which is what the Check Out Guy always says.

“Found things I didn’t even know I was looking for,” I said. My usual reply. More

A Fine Day for Chili

Out on my morning run, I saw a couple deer mating. And I knew it was going to be a good day.

For it was the Saturday of the Topanga Chili Cook-Off and Swap Meet, which my friend Nonie — who is on the board of the Community Club — had coerced me into entering.

Tom and his chili paddle

Tom and his chili paddle

Last year, I was a judge alongside my pal Ernie. There were two chilis entered, neither of which were very good. “I think the best chili was the one they were selling at the concession,” I said to the gal running the event.

“But that came from a can!” she protested. More

Brody’s Big Adventure

My pal, Richard Brody, picked me up on the corner of Santa Monica Blvd. and Bentley Avenue at 11:07 a.m. on a Monday morning. We were going shopping.

Brody and his ramen

Brody and his ramen

What I was doing on that particular corner without a car is a whole other story of broken struts, the Culver City green line and a client of my other, more lucrative life. But it is what Brody and I were doing that is of interest for this blog, as it has everything to do with food. More

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