Fish Stock & Fish Velouté

What is “sauce”? A sauce is simply a liquid of some sort, combined with a thickening agent and flavors. There are literally hundreds of different types of sauces that can be made, each having tremendous potential to increase the variety – and isn’t variety the spice of life? – of ways that food can be prepared and presented. The resulting world of flavors can do wonders for even the simplest of dishes.

Walleyes ready to be filleted

There are really only five basic sauces – starting points – from which all other sauces begin. Referred to as “mother sauces”, each is literally the head, or mother, of its own unique family of sauces it can produce. Each has, as its base, a different liquid and different thickening agent.

Since this is fishing, we’ll concentrate on what I learned as velouté sauce (one of “the five” and a white sauce); its humble beginning is from fish stock liquid, and thus this will be Fish Velouté. The stock is extremely simple to make and store, and with it as a “base”, there are an incredible number of very tasty sauces that will enhance your favorite fish to the point where your friends will swear that you took lessons from Jacques Pepin and Julia Child!


  • Fresh fish carcasses, gutted, gilled and rinsed
  • Chicken bouillon
  • Water
  • Pieces of carrot, celery, onions
  • Parsley
  • Bay leaf
  • 1 cup dry white wine
Note: If you are on the lake or at a resort with kitchen facilities, the task is pretty simple: ask the dock boy. The carcasses normally get thrown away… what a waste! If you are at home, go to the local market – if they offer fresh fish – and ask for some carcasses. If they charge you at all, it certainly won’t be very much.


Get a large stockpot, fill with about 3-4 quarts of water and add the fish and a bit of chicken stock if desired. Add small amounts of vegetables such as carrots, celery, a green onion or two, parsley, bay leaf, a bit of thyme and a cup of dry white wine. Of course, if you’re “up at the lake” and don’t have all the spices, add what you can. The flavors imparted to the stock by the fish itself will allow you to go many directions with the sauces later.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, skimming and discarding any foam that accumulates on the surface of the stock. Cook until you have reduced the liquid by about a third. You’ll need to strain out the bones, veggies and spices, but that’s it. You now have fish stock – the “essence” of whatever fish you used.

The milder the fish used, the milder the resulting stock will be. By the way, walleye makes GREAT stock! Stay away from strong, oily or fatty fish (e.g. northern pike would likely not be a good fish to use). And in case you’re wondering, as long as the carcasses are fresh, there will be almost no smell whatsoever.

Whatever stock you don’t plan to use immediately can be poured into ice-cube trays and frozen. The cubes can be stored in a plastic bag in the freezer for long periods without losing any of their "magic". If you choose to refrigerate this stock, it should tighten and become much like aspic, able to be stored in the fridge for a week or more.

Now that you have the stock, you are ready to make Fish Velouté – a very easy mother sauce.

While the fish stock is reducing, heat 2 Tablespoons of butter (clarified butter works best, but is not imperative) in a pan or small pot. When melted, add 2 Tablespoons of white flour; use a wire whisk or stir vigorously with a fork until the mixture is very smooth.

This paste-like mixture is called roux. Continue to cook the roux until it attains an almond-like color. Slowly add fish stock and continue stirring until the mixture attains the consistency you desire. Season to taste and voila, you have the mother sauce, Fish Velouté!

From here you can experiment by adding other flavors and/or spices and you’ll be amazed at the results over your favorite fresh catch of the day!

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