Chef Van Aken writes: "I have made a version of this soup for over 20 years now and I never tire of it. It’s one of those soups that actually can be a full lunch or dinner. As with many soups, this improves if made a day ahead of time, which makes it an ideal party dish. I like to keep it traditional and offer a shot of dry sherry at the table. It really rounds out the flavors. Serve with warm bread and butter in that the soup is a touch spicy."
- 2 Ounces diced slab bacon, rind removed
- 1/4 Cup olive oil
- 4 garlic, sliced
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeds and stems removed, minced
- 1 medium Spanish onion, peeled and diced medium
- 4 celery stalks, cleaned and diced medium
- 1 carrot, peeled and diced medium
- 1 small bulb fennel, diced medium
- 1 yellow pepper, seeds and stem removed, diced medium
- 1 Tablespoon crushed red pepper
- 1 quart peeled plum tomatoes, thoroughly crushed
- 2 Cups tomato sauce
- 2 1/2 quarts shellfish stock or clam juice
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 Tablespoons each of fresh thyme and basil, chopped
- 2 1/4 Pounds fish (for instance, grouper, snapper, or pompano), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 1/4 Pounds red potatoes, scrubbed, cut into bite-sized pieces and cooked
- Tabasco, to taste, if desired
In a very large soup pot or Dutch oven, over medium-low heat, cook the bacon with olive oil. When the bacon is almost cooked, add the Scotch bonnet and garlic. Cook 30 seconds. Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the onion, celery, carrot, fennel, and yellow pepper. Stir to coat and caramelize (8-12 minutes). Add crushed red pepper.
Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock, bay leaves, and herbs. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat and add the fish pieces and the pre-cooked and drained potatoes. Cook for 10 minutes more.
Add Tabasco to taste then serve, or chill for later use.