Soups are, to me, an often-underrated dish. They are fast, versatile and can be served as an appetizer or a meal.
As a child growing up in Honduras, more often than not, soup was served for Sunday lunch.
I remember a steaming bowl sitting in front of me, along with a big serving of white rice on the side that would eventually be dumped into the soup. And I hated it! Why? Well, the hot weather wasn't exactly conducive to eating soup. Especially on Sunday, when it always seemed to be the hottest day of the week.
Although as a kid, I disliked the thought of having soup for a meal, I was satisfied with the flavors that my mother would cook up. My favorite was "sopa marinera" (mariners soup), which any time I go home now I look forward to having. It's a delicious seafood broth which can include crab (mud crab) shrimp, fish -- often "pargo rojo" (red snapper) -- and jaiba (blue crab).
Now after many years in the restaurant industry, I have learned that soups are good in all seasons. They will always sell and you can get really creative when it comes to recipes. For a chef, creating a new soup is always a fun task.
Try this version of a Honduran-style seafood soup.
Sopa Marinera Catracha (Honduran-style seafood soup)
1/2 pound butter
1/2 pound fish (snapper, but any white fish will do)
1/2 pound live clams and 1 quart water to cook the clams in
3 crabs (stone or blue will work), cleaned and split into halves
1 pound medium-size white shrimp
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium-size green bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 green banana peeled, medium
1 ripe plantain peeled, large diced
1 pound yuca (cassava), medium diced
2 (14-ounce) cans of coconut milk
3 quarts chicken broth/stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a heavy soup pot and cook the onion, bell pepper and garlic until the onions become translucent (2 minutes approximately). Then add the crabs and the chicken stock and simmer for 6-8 minutes; remove the crab and set aside. In a separate pot, boil 1 quart water and cook the clams until they open. Set clams aside. Then add clam broth to the soup pot. Add all of the vegetables (green banana, plantain and yuca), add the coconut milk as well and cook until the vegetables start to get tender, then add all of the seafood (fish, shrimp, and cooked clams and crab) and simmer until all the seafood is thoroughly cooked (about 10 minutes). Season with the salt and pepper.
Rov Avila, a native of Honduras, is executive chef at YachtSea Grille and a culinary arts instructor at MTI Culinary Arts.