Bouillabaisse (French Fish Soup)

>> Friday, April 10, 2015

Bouillabaisse (French Fish Stew)
Bouillabaisse, we have conquered you.

Quite a few times we've said, "We should really try bouillabaisse;" then we open Julia Child's cookbook and shake our heads at the 3 pages of directions.

But my beloved F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned bouillabaisse in his legendary novel about Americans living in the French Riveria: "The Divers went to Nice and dined on a bouillabaisse, which is a stew of rock fish and small lobsters, highly seasoned with saffron, and a bottle of cold Chablis....with the burn and chill of the spiced broth and the parching wine they talked."

 I'll never be young and rich in Nice as the Divers were in "Tender is the Night", but I can eat like them.

Basically, bouillabaisse is a quick soup of fresh leftovers from the fisherman's end of market day. They brought home what didn't sell and cut it up into the pot with some broth, tomatoes, and spices. Julia Child, and some other French cooks, make a bigger science out of it by suggesting you use 5 kinds of fish - some lean, some flaky, some firm-fleshed, and perhaps shellfish. We used fish that was on sale and that we knew we liked.

lobster and vegetable scraps for seafood broth
Lobster Boy wants to know what's for dinner.
Of course, Joe likes to take it up just a notch and make his own broth. This time he used vegetable scraps we'd been storing in the freezer, and the shell of a lobster we had when frozen lobster got down to $2.29 a pound last month (ridiculously cheap, right?).

By all means, make this as simple or elaborate as you want. If you're going for elaborate, do not miss the vegetable-herb sauce called rouille. It add a huge pop of flavor to a simple fish soup.


For the Bouillabaisse:

1 cup leeks, julienned
3 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 cup fennel, julienned
2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
Salt and pepper
6 cups fish broth, OR 4 cups chicken broth and 1 12-oz bottle clam juice
2 lbs assorted fresh fish fillets
1 1/2 cups lobster meat (or any other shellfish)
1/2 pound mussels
Salt and pepper
1 tsp saffron
 12 slices of crusty French bread

For the Rouille:

2/3 cup roasted red peppers
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
 1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 egg
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup olive oil


Put the broth in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Add the saffron, leeks, tomatoes, orange juice, orange zest, fennel, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper. Add the fish and cook for 10 minutes. Add the shellfish and saffron, and cook for 5 minutes.

In a food processor or blender, combine all the rouille ingredients, except for the oil. Puree until smooth. With the machine running, slowly add the olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Strain the seafood from the soup and keep warm. Place a slice or two in each bowl, then cover with the fish broth. Arrange the fish in each soup bowl. Drizzle with the rouille before serving.

Serves 6-8.


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