Fish Stock with Red Wine or Fumet de Poisson au Vin Rouge

I rarely discuss a particular individual in the context of any particular Joy and Feast recipe. I am not opposed to it, in fact I believe that if one person has made a historical impact on cooking, they deserve discussion. Few individuals have made as large of an impact on haute cuisine (French high cuisine) as Auguste Escoffier. Escoffier was a master chef and a writer, having penned nine books including the venerated Le Guide Culinare and Ma Cuisine. Escoffier wrote about the practical and excessive elements of French haute cuisine, and many of his contributions are still implemented in kitchens across the world.

The English version of Le Guide Culinaire(1903) is called The Escoffier Cookbook: A Guide to the Fine Art of Cookery.(1907) This is a book which has remained relevant for over one hundred years. In this book, Escoffier states that stocks are the foundation of great cooking, not only do they impart flavor, umami, and richness into food but they are also a wonderful way to utilize both meat and vegetable scraps.

Fish stock with red wine is found in The Escoffier Cookbook, essentially the French culinary bible, but fish stock is also a basic element in many Eastern cuisines and those countries with abundant costal fisheries. There are many variants on fish stock, but they have one commonality. Fish stock should only cook for around 20 minutes and no longer than one hour, and always at below boiling temperatures, whereas other meat stocks cook for significantly longer and usually at a soft boil.

Harold McGee explains that like mammals and birds, fish also have connective tissue such as collagen, which when broken down in liquid become the essence of a stock. Because fish exist in lower temperature environments their bodies are effected by temperature differently than other animals used in stocks. Collagen in warm water fish like Tilapia break down at 77F, cold- water fish like cod break down at 50F and mollusks like squid and octopus are around 180F. (602-603) With this knowledge applied practically we know that not even a simmer is required for many fish stocks.

There is leeway when choosing what fish to use for a stock. I used a small whole Red Snapper for a few practical reasons. Red Snapper are pretty affordable, and when you buy a fish whole you can better gauge its freshness. The shimmer of the scales, and lack of fishy smell are telltale signs of a fresh fish. The largest benefit of buying a whole fish is that you are able to examine the eyes. As a fish decays the eyes become cloudy and sunken. A whole Snapper will leave you with two fillets for another usage and everything else except for the scales and gills can be used to make fumet.



  • 1 pound White fish bones, head, and tail. Snapper, trout, bass, ect...
  • 1 White onion
  • 1 Leek
  • 1 Carrot, peeled
  • 3 Garlic cloves
  • 5-8 Peppercorns
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1/4 c Red wine
  • 1 sprig Parsley
  • 1 sprig Thyme
  • Butter to cook
Cooking Directions
  1. Rinse fish under water, gut, remove the gills, and remove scales. Rinse once again.
  2. Fillet fish, reserve fillets for another use.
  3. Heat up a 6 quart enamel coated dutch oven and add butter. (A small stock pot is also fine)
  4. Brown onion, leek, carrot and garlic in butter.
  5. Deglaze dutch oven with red wine. Scrape off all the brown leftovers in your pot.
  6. Add peppercorns, bay leaf, parsley and thyme. Either use a sachet or directly add to the pot.
  7. Fill the pot up with cold water.
  8. Over medium heat bring pot to a simmer. Add all the leftover fish bones to the stock and let simmer for 20 minutes.
  9. After 20 minutes has elapsed, strain and allow to come to room temperature, then you may store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or in the freezer indefinitely.
Total Time: 35 min

Citations and Further Readings:
  • Escoffier, Auguste. The Escoffier cook book: a guide to the fine art of cookery. Clarkson Potter, 1941.
  • McGee, Harold. On food and cooking: the science and lore of the kitchen. Simon and Schuster, 2007.


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