Tortilla and Fish Head Soup

Tortilla and Fish Head Soup
In many cultures, fish heads are put to good use in the kitchen — they’re simmered for stock or cooked in soup or curry and eaten with gusto for their succulent cheeks. Not wanting to waste the discarded tilapia heads, Andrew Zimmern came up with this dish on the spot at Sweet Water Organics while Margaret Muza was preparing fish tacos. Zimmern didn’t measure anything out and his only instructions were “the amount of time to cook is proportional to the size of the fish heads.” This “recipe” has been tweaked a little but, still, take it as a mere guideline and run with it.

You probably won’t find fish heads on display at your local grocery store. Ask if they have some in the back or head to an Asian or Latino market and buy a whole fish and get more bang for your buck. One piece of advice — have the fishmonger cut and clean the fish for you.

Makes: 4 servings
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large white onion, chopped
1 jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1/2 cabbage (about 3 cups), shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 to 3 pounds fish heads (Zimmern prefers white-fleshed fish like snapper, bass, halibut, tilapia, etc.), gills removed, rinsed with boiling water
1 (6 ounce) can tomato purée
1 (12 ounce) bottle amber beer
6 cups chicken stock or water
2 limes, plus more to serve
4 corn tortillas, charred on the grill or under the broiler, plus more for dipping
In a large pot, heat oil over high heat. Add garlic, onion, jalapeño, cabbage, cilantro and celery, and cook for several minutes, stirring, until vegetables start to wilt.

Add fish heads and stir and cook for a few minutes.Tortilla and Fish Head Soup

Stir in tomato purée, beer and chicken stock. Cover pot and bring to a boil, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer.

Skim off any foam that rises to the top and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Chop up charred tortillas and add to pot. Squeeze in juice from 1 lime. Simmer for another 10 minutes.Tortilla and Fish Head Soup

Squeeze in juice from the last lime and season with salt to taste. Dish soup into a large serving bowl, and garnish with cilantro. Serve with lime wedges and more tortillas.