Photos by David Stuck
Tersiguel’s hearty Soupe de Poisson packs a three-part palate punch: It exudes French flavors and culture with every savory spoonful, delivers an abundance of vegetables, herbs and spices and provides that taste of the shore. “It puts you right on the water,” says chef and owner Michel Tersiguel. “You see a rusty boat, some barnacles, and it puts you right on the shores of France.”
The soup is inspired by France’s northwest coastal region, which the chef visited more than a decade ago and whose memories still linger. “We rotate our menu a lot here, and I brought [the soup] in 15 years ago, and it’s one that hasn’t left the menu,” he says.
Showcasing French cuisine is the defining characteristic of the Ellicott City restaurant, so much so that Tersiguel’s work has been complimented by a former French official. “One time, the ex-president of France came here and he called my father, Fernand Tersiguel, an ambassador to France. That’s the biggest compliment you can get,” Tersiguel says.
Tersiguel’s was affected by this summer’s flooding in Ellicott City, the second major flood in two years, but quickly resumed business. This month, staff prepares for the restaurant’s special Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve Chef’s Menu events. During the rest of the season, you can find Soupe de Poisson, that stalwart envoy, on the menu.
Soupe de Poisson (Fish Soup)
“Every time I go back to France, I try to find this soup in one of the port towns in Brittany,” Michel Tersiguel says. “It is not one of the prettiest soups, but with a bottle of Muscadet and fresh sea air, it is delicious.” This soup is served best with melted Swiss cheese and croutons on top, and a savory rouille on the side that can be drizzled to taste.
2 pounds small butter fish gutted and gills cut out; if butter fish is not available you can use any small white fish and fish scraps.
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup sliced onion,1/8 inch
½ cup sliced carrot, 1/8 inch
¼ cup slice leek, 1/8 inch
2 tablespoons sliced garlic
1 pinch of saffron
½ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon garam marsala spice
2 bay leaves
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 ½ teaspoons fresh chopped tarragon
¼ cup Italian parsley leaves
½ teaspoon fennel
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 lemon juiced
2 cups white wine
4 quarts fish stock
1. Cut fish in 1/8-inch strips. Traditionally, the heads and bones are included, as they will be pureed into the dish smoothly, but this is optional for a less-authentic audience.
2. In a large sauce pan, sauté leeks, onions carrots and garlic in olive oil until lightly colored.
3. Add fish and sauté until fish is also lightly colored and leaving a slight fond on pan.
4. Add all spices and herbs and cook two more minutes.
5. Add tomato paste and coat everything again until the ingredients are slightly colored.
6. Add lemon juice and white wine. Reduce by half.
7. Add fish stock, lower to simmer and cook for about 25 minutes
8. After simmering, pour soup into a food processor or blender and blend until as smooth as possible. If using the traditional recipe with bones, do it in small batches and pay attention to your blender.
9. Strain through a china cap, not a chinois. (The holes of a chinois are too small and will separate too much of the soup.)
10. To serve, reheat and serve with grated Swiss cheese, croutons and a rouille on the side.
1 cup fish stock
2 pinch saffron
1 cup white wine
1 tablespoon shallots, diced
2 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup virgin olive oil
1. Reduce fish stock, saffron, white wine and shallots in a small sauce pan until au sec. Au sec is a French cooking term that literally translates to “dry.” In the cooking process, it refers to the point in which the pan is almost dry, as this is just before the sauce will burn. What does this mean for the rouille? Cook until it’s a syrup-like consistency.
2. Cool to room temperature, then add mayonnaise, raw garlic and olive oil
3. Place in refrigerator until serving.