Caldo de Marisco (Spicy Seafood Soup)



2 dried chile ancho

5 qt. water (5 lt.)

1 red snapper, scaled and fileted, with carcass, head and filets reserved (about 2lbs./1 kg*)

2 chile serrano, whole

1 whole head of garlic, unpeeled with loose husks removed

3 sprigs fresh oregano

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs fresh marjoram

2 tbsp. (10 gr) chopped fresh cilantro

1 lb. (500 gr) tomatoes

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 lb. scallops

1 lb. (500 gr) crab in shell (I use small blue crab, about 4 oz./113 gr each)

1 lb. (500 gr) small shrimp, in shell with head*

1 lb. (500 gr) of one or a combination of the following:  squid, mussels, octopus*

Salt to taste

Cilantro, lime wedges and avocado for garnish


Heat the broiler in your oven. Place the chile ancho in a pan, and toast under the broiler for 30 seconds, until they are just toasted. Keep a watchful eye, as they can quickly burn. Remove from the broiler and set aside.

Pour the water in a large stock pot and bring to a to a boil. Add the fish head, carcass, (not the filets just yet) chiles, garlic, oregano, thyme, marjoram and cilantro. Cover with a lid, and lower the heat to a gentle simmer, allowing the stock to cook for 1 ½ hours. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, and strain to remove the ingredients from the stock. Discard the boiled ingredients and reserve the stock.

Meanwhile, in a separate 2 qt. (2 lt.) saucepan, fill with water and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, and simmer for 2 minutes, until the skins split. Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes from the water, and add the dried chiles. Simmer the chiles for 10 minutes until they are soft.  While the chiles are boiling, peel, core and seed the tomatoes. Once the chiles are soft, remove from the water. Discard the water once it is cooled**. Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles, rinsing away any seeds that cannot be removed easily. Place in the container of a blender, along with the tomatoes and chopped onions. Add 1 qt. (1 lt.) of water, or just enough to facilitate blending, and blend into a smooth puree.

When you are ready to prepare your caldo de marisco, bring the stock back to a simmer. Add the chile puree, and simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes. Add the scallops, crab, shrimp and the remaining fresh seafood. The reserved fish filets should be cut into 1” (2.5 cm) pieces and added to the caldo as well. Simmer the caldo for 5-7 minutes, until the added seafood is thoroughly cooked, but still firm to the bite.

Serve with corn tostadas, and garnish with chopped cilantro, lime wedges and slices of avocado.


*Any type of seafood gets its flavor from the heads, bones and shells, and not from the flesh. It may be slightly traumatizing for some to see the head of a fish bobbling around in the delicious, fish scented waters of the fish stock you are making in this recipe, but there is no way around it. Unless, of course, you choose to enjoy caldo de marisco in a restaurant, where most kitchen practices remain a mystery. I say make it at home. Delicious!

It is always hard to tell what will be the freshest seafood available at your local market. Use the best ingredients that you can find. If your super market only has frozen seafood, select whatever seafood seems to look the best, or sells the most (with the exception of fish sticks. Don’t use those.)

**Many people ask me if htey should reserve the water that the chiles have been cooked in for adding to another dish. I say no. It is difficult to wash dried chiles, but simmering them in hot water seems to clean away any debris or dust that may have accumulated in their wrinkly skins. That dirt goes right into the boiling water. Hence, you should think of chile boiling water like bath water, and simply pour it down the drain.