In the planning stages of my Whole30, I had written down a good idea for a light lunch: some kind of light shellfish broth with a lovely piece of poached fish along with some vegetables to round it out. I was inspired after seeing this ridiculously good-looking chicken and vegetable soup from Bon Appetit. Tender chicken, soft squash and hearty greens in a clear broth, yum! That one is definitely still on the list!
This dish came together on the fly. I had some shrimp in the freezer awaiting their destiny and I had just bought two portions of cod that looked super fresh and delicious. As well, I had some Yukon Gold potatoes, carrots, celery and fennel lying around and the whole thing clicked for me.
I made a very quick and simple stock using the shrimp and fennel fronds, then lightly poached the shrimp and vegetables in the stock and seared the cod in a cast iron skillet until it was golden brown and crisp, layered the whole thing together in a big bowl and showered it with fresh dill. It reminded me of a super light and elegant version of a seafood chowder.
Shrimp and Fennel Broth with Cod and Chowder Vegetables
For the Broth:
- 2 cups water
- stalks and fronds from one bulb fennel
- 1/4 white onion, thinly sliced
- 4-5 black peppercorns
- 1 lemon wedge
- 1/2 pound shrimp shells
- olive oil, salt and pepper
For the Vegetables and Shrimp:
- 1 small Yukon Gold potato, quartered and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 large carrot, peeled, quartered and diced
- 1 stalk celery, halved and thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
- 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 teaspoon fresh dill
For the Cod:
- 1 5-6 oz cod filet
- olive oil, salt and pepper
In a pot over medium heat, add a bit of olive oil, the stalks and fronds of the fennel bulb, white onion, black peppercorns and shrimp shells. Stir and sweat until the vegetables begin to soften but not take on any color, about 4-5 minutes. The shrimp shells should be starting to turn pink at this point. Add the water and bring back to a boil. Lower to a simmer and let cook 15- 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes, kill the heat and strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve. Return to the pot and taste, adding salt in necessary.
Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat and add a few teaspoons of olive oil. Season the cod filet generously with salt and pepper on both sides. When the oil is shimmering, put the cod in the pan and let sear, until golden brown and can be moved easily in the pan, 6-8 minutes. Flip and ladle in about 1/2-3/4 cups of the broth. Lower the heat and let the cod finish cooking in the broth, another 4-5 minutes.
Bring the broth back to a simmer and add the shrimp to the pot. Poach the shrimp until they just turn pink. Remove them from the broth with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the vegetables to the pot and let them simmer until just soft, about 10 minutes. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
Pour the vegetables and broth into a large serving bowl. I pushed all of the vegetables toward the center of the bowl to help prop up the fish. Place the cod filet atop the vegetables. Scatter the shrimp around the bowl and top with fresh dill. Squeeze a little extra fresh lemon juice over the top if you like. A big, fat drizzle of a good fruity olive oil would make a nice finishing touch here too!