Sunday, November 13, 2011

Monday Bites - Bouillabaisse

The recipe comes from Julia Child, (Pgs. 50 - 53 of her Volume One of Mastering the Art of French Cooking).  I usually make this for company, but Saturday in L.A. was so awfully gloomy, and I was suffering a bit from one of those little disappointments that come along in a life.  Mr. Paradis was feeling like he was coming down with a cold and the usual medications or hot toddy's were out of the question because he has a small "procedure" coming up.  So the only thing certain to pick us both up, was going to be a successful flurry around a Saturday night kitchen.  I don't know about you, but there are alot of things in life that you cannot control AT ALL, but going into a kitchen, with just the bare minimum - a generally empty frig and just the contents of your pantry to fall back on - and whipping up something truly soul satisfying is one of the great blessings in life.  For both you, and the people you are cooking for.

So far, noone has pushed their soup plates away in rejection.  In fact, a fairly competitive cook in my family, after her first taste of this bouillabaisse, slumped back in her chair her spoon still raised above her plate, sighed, and said:  "This......... is WONderful!"  

And then there's my friend Walter, who, every time I talk to him, lobbys for: FISH SOUP! FISH SOUP!

Here's a link to another website's version, the proportions are very close to the one's I used on Saturday, which only made enough for two people.  Julia's recipe in the book is double what you see on the link.  For company I think you need to at least double Julia's recipe.

A few notes:

1)  I didn't have leeks in the house so I used onions as specified and made up the leek requirement with a mix of minced scallions and shallots.  It was FINE.

2)  Julia's recipe assumed (back in the day) that you wouldn't be able to source Herbes de Provence,  but since were in a globalized world, I substituted a big pinch of it for the "thyme or basil" called for.

3)  She also assumed that we wouldn't have Pernod in the late 60's/early 70's but I DO!  So I put a capful of it into the broth just a minute or two before I added the fish.

4)  As for fish stock, I used some frozen court bouillon that I had in the frig.  (The residual vinegar in no way altered or harmed the finished broth.  You need to balance it with other stock as follows, though.)  You could also use the reserved (frozen) liquid from steamed mussels or clams.  I added a small bottle of clam juice, I've also used Knorr's fish stock cubes - any of the options ALWAYS IN ADDITION to a nice broth of roasted, boiled, shrimp or lobster shells.  I keep the shells from other meals and freeze them.  When I'm ready for a bouillabaisse I roast them for a short time either in the oven or in a covered dry pan on the top of the stove, till they start smelling smokily delicious - I roast them for a little while longer, but don't let them burn, then I add them to the stock.  Of course you have to strain or pick them out at some point before serving.  (And depending, I either use them again for another meal, or I rinse them dig them into my garden.  They make great fertilizer.)

5)  Personally, I would not serve the potatoes or pasta that Julia calls for to company.    It may be traditional for home cooking, but aside from using a little bit of potato for the rouille and thickening the broth nicely - MEH!  Not alot of value added.  That said, Mr. P. likes the potatoes!  Me, I think those starches detract from the overall experience.

6)  For the croutons that you will be serving your company to slather with rouille and sprinkle with gruyere, make sure to get a mature gruyere which is heavy, moist, maybe the tiniest bit grainy and MOST IMPORTANTLY, tastes a little smoky.  You will not regret it.  Make sure to float your crouton in the broth and drizzle a little broth over it.   Some people put the rouille straight into the soup.  

7)  And don't skip the orange peel.  You cannot imagine the flavor dimension and authenticity it adds. 

8)  If you add more tomato it tastes more like Cioppino and is less interesting.  (To me - and make sure to call it Cioppino cuz your friends will know the difference!)  For company, though less authentic, adding shrimp, clams or scallops may seem more festive.

It goes without saying that the broth is even more mind-bendingly delicious on the second day after you make it.   So maybe....prepare ahead!  (Just the broth, cook the fish on the day you serve it.)



  1. One of my favorites! (do I have to re-state that I am in a landlocked country? oh my... I sure miss the sea!)

  2. Very yummy. I am curious about that American cook book classique. Am I dreaming, or were you taking on a Jukie and Julia tone in your intro?