Boris Fishman’s Soviet Fish Soup Is Better Than It Sounds

His and Hers Ukha

“Russians had spoons four hundred years before they had forks,” Boris Fishman told the Forward. “It’s soup country, and this is the mother soup.”

Time: 1 hour each

Serves: 6–8

Two nearly identical recipes, with quite different outcomes. The salmon, though meatier, should produce an impossibly delicate, almost refreshing broth in Arkady’s version—if it comes out right, you’ll want to sip it cold. (“It’s like Soviet gazpacho,” says Fishman.) The pike, in Oksana’s, though tender, lends a stronger taste. (The salmon is also less bony.) The short boiling time means your vegetables should stay firm and flavorful—this is also the reason to cook the carrot whole and dice it only at the end. No Russian would think of eating ukha anything other than piping hot, but there’s no reason this soup can’t bring the temperature down on a hot day.

HIS

1 1/2 pounds salmon steak

Kosher salt, to taste

3 garlic cloves, halved

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

1 large carrot, peeled

1 medium onion, peeled

2 celery stalks, diced

4 Idaho potatoes, peeled, 2 diced and 2 left whole

Instructions:

1 . Bring 10 cups of well-salted water to a boil and throw in the carrot, onion, celery, and potatoes. Return to a boil, lower the heat to medium, cover most of the way, and let cook for 20 minutes.

2 . In the meantime, rinse the salmon and pat dry. Using a sharp knife, cut into 2-inch pieces. This will expose some bones; pull them out with your fingers or tweezers. Season with salt and set aside.

3 . When the water and vegetables have been going for 20 minutes, lower the heat to the lowest setting and add the salmon and the garlic cloves. With the lid slightly ajar, cook for about 30 minutes, until the salmon looks done.

4 . Remove and dispose of the onion. Remove and dice the carrot, and return it to the broth. Remove the two whole potatoes, mash them, and return the mass to the broth, stirring it in gently. Taste for salt and crown with the fresh parsley.

HERS

1 parsley root, peeled, with greens (or substitute 1 parsnip)

1 large carrot, peeled

1 medium onion, peeled

3 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced

1 medium-size (about 1 pound) pike, or similar fish

Kosher salt, to taste

3 garlic cloves, halved

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

Sources: You’ll be able to find wild pike online from retailers such as Citarella.com; workable substitutions are walleye, branzino, and porgy, in order of preference. Pike is quite bony, so unless you enjoy picking out bones the way a Slavic person does, you might fish the pieces out after cooking and enjoy the pike mainly as a flavoring agent.

Instructions:

1 . Bring 10 cups of well-salted water to a boil and throw in the parsley root, carrot, onion, and potatoes. Return to a boil, lower the heat to medium, cover most of the way, and let cook for 20 minutes.

2 . In the meantime, rinse the pike, snip off the fins and tail (scissors are handy), cut off the head, and cut up the rest into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Season with salt and set aside.

3 . When the water and vegetables have been going for 20 minutes, lower the heat to the lowest setting and add the pike and the garlic cloves. With the lid slightly ajar, cook for 20–30 minutes, until the pike looks done.

4 . Remove the parsley root, dispose of the wilted greens, cut the root into disks, and return the disks to the broth. Remove and dice the carrot and return to the broth. Remove and discard the onion. Taste for salt and crown with the fresh parsley.

This recipe is reprinted with permission from “A Savage Feast: Three Generations, Two Continents, and a Dinner Table (a Memoir with Recipes),” Harpercollins Publishing.

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Boris Fishman’s Soviet Fish Soup Is Better Than It Sounds

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