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Lemongrass Z’herbes Bourride Gumbo

or Green Fish Soup

Makes 8 cups or 4 large bowls

When I buy a fish at Katie’s Seafood, the spectacular seafood store on the Galveston waterfront, I tend to have it filleted—and I ask for the bones and head in a separate bag. There were three such bags of fish frames along with a frozen whiting in my freezer when I looked this morning.

I fileted the whiting and threw all the fish bones in a pot with some water (filtered) to start a seafood soup. I bought some vegetables and a pound of shrimp at Kroger. I threw the vegetable trimmings and shrimp shells in the pot too.

At first, I thought I was making a fishy version of the green soup called gumbo z’herbes, but I have a healthy lemongrass bush in the yard, so I added some to the pot thinking about a Jamaican fish soup with callallo—fevergrass is a favorite island flavor.

Then I remembered I had a bunch of leeks I needed to use before we left on vacation. In Normandy, they start some fish soups by cooking down chopped leeks in butter until they are tender and then add fish stock.

When it came time to serve it, I floated some toast squares spread with garlic mayo in each bowl—just like a Provencal bourride. I know, I know, lemongrass, leeks, greens, aioli and red snapper makes for a muddle of a soup–but such is life on the multicultural Gulf Coast.

1 pound of shrimp
4 or 5 fish frames and heads (red snapper, flounder, and speckled trout are all good choices)
½ pound panfish (such as whiting or croaker), in ¼ inch dice
¼ cup of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil.
2 onions, chopped
1 bunch leeks, cleaned and chopped
1 teaspoon white pepper
3 tablespoons flour
Salt and black pepper to taste
Cayenne red pepper powder to taste
2 stalks lemongrass, crushed and chopped
1 bunch parsley, cleaned and chopped
1 bunch (5 ounces) greens (chard, kale, collard, calallo, spinach or mixed) chopped
4 medium potatoes
2 slices toasted French bread, cut into 8 quarters (for serving)
½ cup garlic mayonnaise (for serving)

Clean the shrimp, put the meat in a dish and the shells and heads in a soup pot. Cover the shrimp and reserve in the refrigerator. Add the fish frames and heads to the pot. Put the onion tops, parsley stalks and other vegetable trimmings in the pot as you work. Cover the fish frames and trimmings with filtered water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for a 30 minutes to an hour or until the stock is milky-colored and nicely flavored. Strain, reserving the liquid and discarding the solids.

Over medium heat in a large pan, melt the butter and add the oil. Sautee the onions and leeks until very soft, about 25 minutes. Sprinkle the mixture with flour, salt and pepper and white and red pepper. Turn the heat to medium high and cook stirring often to scrape up the browned flour from the bottom of the pan. Add the strained stock to the leeks and onions, stirring well. Stir until well blended. Add the parsley and lemongrass and simmer for five minutes. Add the chopped greens and potatoes and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the greens are cooked.

Just before serving, add the shrimp and cook until they start to curl, three to five minutes, depending on the size. Ladle some soup into each serving bowl. Spread the toast quarters with garlic mayo and float one on top of each cup or two in each bowl.

1 comment to Lemongrass Z’herbes Bourride Gumbo

  • jim sherman

    Robb –

    “Callallo” (in addition to being the name of Texas A&M’s quarterly lit journal) is actually the Jamacian name for vegetable amaranth. Hard to find commercially because it is very unprofitable to grow – very lightweight leaves that take forever to pick a pound of. Very easy to grow here in Zone 9 and once it goes to seed you will have it forever. You’re not the first to be a bit confused – Calvin Trillian did the same thing – because the leaves basically instantly dissolve in hot water or fish-bone broth and forms a lovely stock. Lots of varieties available through the smaller seed companies and of course amaranth seed is one of the “wonder grains.” Baker Creek has a good selection of both grain and vegetable amaranths… pigweed which grows all over the place is a wild version but edible.