Bouillabaisse is one of those amazing recipes with humble origins. Fishermen in France would put together whatever they had in a pot, and then serve it. However, if you don’t happen to be a French fisherman who lives by the sea, you are less likely to have the ingredients readily available to make a spectacular bouillabaisse. You’ll have to spend some time, and some money, putting it together. It has four main components: stock, rouille, croutons, and a variety of fishes.
Bouillabaisses Broth (i.e. Fish Stock, since this is made with bones, so it’s really stock, not broth)
All great bouillabaisses start with a great fish stock. For great fish stock, you need to start with a fish carcass. And yes, that includes the head.
Making stock is annoying — especially draining the liquid from the solids. That’s why it’d be so much better to be a French fisherman, who probably has some sort of cauldron with a wood fire underneath and is a constant source of fresh stock.
Not a stock photo. This is actually what I used for the fish stock. Also didn't mean to make a pun with "stock photo."
I left the stock in the fridge overnight and heated it up the next day. The fish bones and head made the mixture very gelatinous, which was pretty cool, or creepy, depending on your perspective.
Gelatinous means more flavours
- 2 lbs of fish carcass (I asked my fishmonger, and he gave me a lovely red snapper, head on)
- Lobster shells, if available
- Shrimp shells, if available
- 2 celery stems
- 3 cups of fronds (the leafy top of fennel that looks kinda like dill)
- Sprigs of thyme (plus some extra for when you put the soup together)
- Parsley Stems (save the leaves for when you put the soup together)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 3 tablespoons of Olive Oil
- 6 cups of water (or enough to cover your solid stock items)
- 2 cups of white wine
Note — the ingredients for your stock can, and should, adjust according to what’s available and looks delicious. Above is merely what we used.
Heat a stock pot. Add olive oil. Throw in all the ingredients. Let the ingredients saute for a minute, and stir. You don’t want anything to burn. After 7-10 minutes, stirring every minute or so, add your wine and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for a half hour. Separate the liquids from the solids.
Rouille is a weird addition to boillabaisse. Luckily it’s not that hard to make. Just combine:
- a cup or so of bread crumbs with
- a chopped red pepper,
- a clove of garlic,
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and
- enough fish stock to blend it smooth.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
Put ingredients in a blender, and add fish stock till the mixture has the consistency of cake frosting.
Croutons are pretty easy also, and pretty damned delicious.
- 20-30 slices of bread, about 1 1/2 inches thick
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic
Rub about 20 slices of bread with sliced garlic. Add a little olive oil to each slice, and season them with some salt and pepper.
Place the slice in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes, and flip them when they start to brown. When they brown on the other side, they’re done.
Fishes et al.
- Fish Stock (see above)
- Croutons (see above)
- Rouille (see above)
- 2 dozen littleneck clams
- 1 1/2 pounds of mussels
- 2 pounds of white fish (we used cod), cut in 1 inch chunks
- Juice from one orange
- Zest from one orange
- Juice from one medium lemon
- Zest from one lemon
- 1/2 pound of tomatoes, chopped
- 1 1/2 pounds of medium shrimp, shelled and cleaned
- 1/2 cup of parsley leaves, chopped at the last second
- Salt and pepper to taste
- The leaves from a few sprigs of thyme, chopped at the last second
Note again, the fish and herbs you add to the soup is completely subject to what looks good at the market that day. Ask your fish monger what’s good.
Heat enough stock to fill 8-10 bowls of soup about halfway. Bring to a simmer. Add the tomatoes, orange juice, orange zest, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add the white fish and cook for 4 minutes. Add the rest of the fish till the mussels and clams open. Discard unopened clams and mussels. Test for salt and pepper. Adjust accordingly. Add the soup with the fish et al. to a bowl.
Add the Rouille in the middle of each bowl, and provide the leftover on the side. Place a couple of the croutons on the side of the bowl.