Branka's Fish Soup
(Fischsuppe von Branka)
Every summer, our hosts in Vienna can several dozen pounds of fresh tomatoes for using all year long; some went into this soup.
1 28-oz. can whole peeled plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 small yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 bulb celery root, trimmed, peeled, and finely chopped
1 cup sweet paprika
1 bouquet garni (10 celery leaves, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp. drained
pickled green peppercorns, and 2 cloves peeled garlic tied
in cheesecloth sachet with kitchen twine
1 4-5-lb whole catfish, cleaned, fileted, and skinned, head
and tail reserved
4 slices country bread, cut into 1/4" cubes
1. Put tomatoes and their canning juices, half the onions and carrots, and one-quarter of the garlic into a small pot and simmer over medium heat until onions are soft, 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add celery root and remaining onions and carrots and cook until soft, 8-10 minutes. Add paprika, tomato mixture, bouquet garni, 12 cups cold water, and fish head and tail. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.
2. Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes and cook until golden, 6-7 minutes. Add remaining garlic, season to taste with salt, and cook, stirring constantly, 1-2 minutes more.
3. Remove and discard fish head and tail and bouquet garni from pot. Add fish filets and simmer stirring and breaking up fish with the back of a wooden spoon occasionally, until fish is cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Divide soup between 6 warm soup bowls. Garnish with croutons.