Served as an appetizing first course or as a hearty meal, seafood soups dole out oceans of flavor.

By Kris Wetherbee
November 18, 2005
Jean Allsopp

When it comes to comfort food, a simmering pot of soup ranksamong the most versatile. Whether a creamy bisque, a basicconsommé, or a more adventurous bouillabaisse, soups satisfynearly any mood or taste. Adding seafood yields nutritious omega-3fatty acids and a briny burst of flavor.

Virtually any type of seafood works for soup. While canned fishmay be quick, fresh is better. The same holds true for stock, whichserves as the foundation for most soups. A good broth imparts adepth and richness not possible in water-based soups.

Bouillon cubes or granules work in a pinch, but making your ownfish stock is simple. You need only a pot of simmering water, a fewtrimmings (which include fish heads, shells, and bones), and somevegetables and seasonings. You can also make a specialty seafoodstock with just shrimp shells and heads. Add a couple of celerystalks, a carrot or two, a sliced onion, and a bay leaf, oranything that sounds appealing.

Many seafood soups taste richer when cooked a day in advance,allowing time for the full flavor to develop. Prepared soup can berefrigerated for up to two days, but wait to add cream or garnishesuntil just before reheating. Whether you dive into great cioppinoor chow down on chowder, one thing is certain: Seafood makes soupsimply delicious.

Hearty Cioppino
Serve this Italian favorite with garlic bread or grilledfocaccia.
1 red onion, chopped
1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped
2 serrano chiles, seeded and chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups fish or chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine
2 cups zucchini, cubed (about 2 medium)
½ tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 sea scallops or 1 pound bay scallops
12 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
12 mussels, scrubbed and debearded
1 pound red snapper or other firm, white fish, cut into largechunks

Cook onion, fennel, and chiles in oil over medium heat in aDutch oven until onion is tender. Add bell pepper and garlic; cook,stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and next 5ingredients. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45minutes. Stir in zucchini and rosemary; bring to a simmer, andsimmer 10 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf. Stir in salt andpepper. Add scallops and shrimp, and cook 3 minutes. Add musselsand fish; cook 4 more minutes or until mussels open and fish flakeseasily when tested with a fork. Makes 6 servings.

Halibut, Sweet Potato, and Leek Soup
1½ pounds halibut fillets
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1½ cups sliced leeks
4 cups peeled and cubed sweet potatoes (about 1½ pounds)
4 cups fish, chicken, or vegetable broth
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup whipping cream
Salt and white pepper, to taste
Garnish: sour cream

Sauté halibut in 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat3 to 5 minutes on each side. Let cool slightly; break fish intobite-size chunks. Set aside. Sauté leeks in a Dutch oven inremaining 1 tablespoon butter 5 minutes or until leeks are soft.Add sweet potatoes and broth. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat,and simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Pureesoup in a blender or food processor until smooth, and return toDutch oven. Stir in basil, whipping cream, and halibut. Cook overmedium heat 5 minutes or until hot. Season with salt and whitepepper, and ladle soup into individual serving bowls. Garnish, ifdesired. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Smoky Salmon-Clam Chowder
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup sliced celery with leaves
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
1 cup fish or chicken broth
1½ cups milk
3 cups diced red potatoes
½ cup diced carrot
1 pound hot-smoked salmon, flaked
2 (3.66-ounce) cans smoked clams, drained
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked mozzarella cheese
2 cups half-and-half
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add onion andcelery, and sauté until tender. Whisk in flour; cook 1 minute.Gradually whisk in clam juice, broth, and milk. Stir in potatoesand carrot. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20minutes or until potatoes are tender. Stir in salmon, clams,cheese, and half-and-half. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 to 2minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in salt and pepper. Ladle soupinto individual serving bowls. Makes 6 servings.

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Lobster
½ cup chopped sweet onion
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2½ cups chicken broth
3 pounds fresh asparagus, cut into pieces
1 cup peeled and chopped potato
1 cup milk
½ cup whipping cream
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups (about 10 ounces) cooked and chopped lobster
Toasted sliced almonds

Cook onion in butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat 5 minutesor until onion is tender. Stir in flour; gradually add chickenbroth, stirring constantly. Add asparagus and potato, and bring toa boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or untilvegetables are tender. Let cool slightly. Puree asparagus mixturein a blender or food processor in batches until smooth, scrapingdown sides, if necessary. Add milk, whipping cream, and salt,stirring well. Cook over medium heat just until thoroughly heated.Ladle soup into individual serving bowls. Top evenly with choppedlobster, and sprinkle with toasted almonds. Makes 4 to 6servings.

Note: Substitute cooked crab or shrimp for the lobster, ifdesired.