Ask ten french chefs to define the quintessential Bouillabaisse and you’ll get 11 different answers so we’ve decided to defer to “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child. Pair this wonderful dish with La Vie Dansante’s Roussanne.
Bouillabaisse is at it’s heart a simple, rustic fish stew from Provence in the south of France. It can be made from any combination of fish and shellfish so use what’s fresh and plentiful in your area. In a classic recipe you first create a Fish Soup base, additional fish and shellfish are then prepared separately, and a Rouille is then assembled in a third step. To serve place the fish and shellfish into a shallow bowl, stir part of the Rouille into the Fish Soup and pour over the fish and shellfish. The remaining Rouille is reserved to spread on toasted french bread.
FISH SOUP BASE
- 3/4 cup minced leek
- 1 cup minced onion
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves of garlic (mashed)
- 1 pound tomatoes (rough chopped)
- 2 1/2 cups of water
- 6 parsley sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme or basil
- 1/8 teaspoon fennel
- 2 big pinches saffron
- 1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3-4 pounds lean fish (heads, bones, trimming, shellfish remains, etc)
- 1 halibut steak
- 1 large fillet of red snapper (cut into pieces)
- 3 large scallops sliced in half
- 12 mussels
- 12 clams
- Rounds of hard-toasted french bread
- 1/3 cup fresh parsley (rough chopped)
- 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper or canned pimento
- 1 small chili pepper or several drops of Tabasco sauce
- 1 medium potato (cooked in the soup)
- 4 cloves of garlic (mashed)
- 1 teaspoon basil
- 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- 2-3 tablespoon of the hot soup
FOR THE FISH SOUP BASE: Cook the onions and leeks slowly in olive oil for 5 minutes or until almost tender. Stir in the garlic and tomatoes. Raise the heat to medium and cook 5 minutes more.
Add the water, herbs, seasonings and fish to the kettle and cook uncovered at moderate boil for 30 to 40 minutes. Strain, pressing the juice out of the ingredients. Taste carefully for seasoning and strength. It should be delicious at this point, so it will need no further fussing with later. You should have about 2 1/2 quarts in a high, rather narrow kettle.
FOR THE BOUILLABAISSE: Bring the soup to a rapid boil 20 minutes before serving. Add the firm-fleshed fish. Bring quickly back to a boil and boil rapidly for five more minutes. Add the tender-fleshed fish, the clams, the mussels, and scallops. Bring to a boil again and and boil five minutes more until the fish is just tender when pierced with a fork. Do not overcook.
FOR THE ROUILLE: Pound all ingredients in a bowl or mortar for several minutes to form a very smooth, sticky paste. Drop by drop pound or beat in the olive oil like making a mayonnaise. Season to taste. Just before serving, beat in a little of the soup base. Serve along side in a sauce boat.
TO SERVE: Immediately lift out the fish and arrange on the platter. Correct the seasoning if necessary and pour the soup into the tureen over rounds of French Bread. Spoon a ladle full of soup over the fish and sprinkle parsley over both the fish and the soup. Serve immediately accompanied by the Rouille.