‘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.
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.
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!”
La brea ata ann d’anraith! … “It is a lovely day for soup!”
(Somebody correct my Gaelic, pleasssse!)
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Irish fish soup
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
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.)