Fish Stock

Stocks are indispensable in the kitchen. They are the base for soups, risottos, sauces, and gravies. And, if you are like me and hate to waste things, they are great cleansers of the soul because many things that might otherwise be consigned to the garbage get a last chance to shine. Indeed, the best stocks are made from odds and ends along with a few panty basics. For this stock I used a salmon head, shrimp tails and shells, and stems from shiitake mushrooms. The head I bought for the purpose but the rest were trimmings that I collected in a bag in the freezer. Most cookbooks will tell you that salmon is to be avoided for fish stock because of its distinctive flavor. Personally, I do not mind that flavor and anyway salmon heads are pretty much all I can get. One should remove the gills lest they impart bitterness to the stock but I have forgotten to no ill effect.  I make my stock in a pressure cooker for speed and convenience but do not let the lack of such a device dissuade you from making stock. Just double or treble the cooking time. Note that the quantities in the recipe are rather vague. There is really no magic formula; use what you have at hand. If the stock is too intense, water it down; if too weak, boil it down a bit. Even a watery stock is better than plain water.



Fish head and/or bones

1½ to 2 pounds

700 to 1000 grams

Shrimp, crab, or lobster shells

½ to 1 pound

250 to 500 grams

Mushroom stems

2 ounces

70 grams

Onion, coarsely chopped

1 medium

1 medium

Carrot, coarsely chopped

2 small

2 small

Celery, coarsely chopped

1 stalk

1 stalk

Bouquet garni



         Bay leaves



         Black peppercorns

8 to 12

8 to 12








Rinse the fish head and remove the gills (or have your fishmonger do it). Put into pressure cooker vessel. Add the crustacean shells, mushroom trimmings, and vegetables. Put the ingredients for the bouquet garni into a large tea ball or tie in a bit of cheesecloth and add to the pot. Cover with water to the limit set by the pressure cooker manufacturers—in mine that is 16 cups. Cook at high pressure (15 psi, 103 kPa) for 30 minutes. Allow the cooker to cool for about 15 minutes. Release pressure according to manufacturer’s instructions. Pour the stock through a colander into a large bowl then filter through cheesecloth or a reusable coffee filter into suitable storage containers—I use 1 quart screw top plastic freezer containers. Freeze for up to several months.


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