Bouillabaisse is a classic Mediterranean dish. Not to brag or sound like a pain-in-the-butt snob, but I once enjoyed a bowl in a wonderful restaurant in Nice. One of those unforgettable meals in which the setting, the company, the food, all conspired together to make you feel on top of the world. Or close enough. Where we live we have access to the very best beef you can dream of, but seafood? Not so much. So I realize that calling my humble seafood concoction “Bouillabaisse” is a bit of a stretch. The fish was previously frozen, same goes for the shrimp. I know that nowadays the frozen stuff is processed almost immediately upon fishing, but still… Cooking seafood in the middle of the country always seems a bit strange. However, I must say we were very pleased by how tasty it turned out. Not the same as sitting down for a beautiful meal in Nice, but… being at home with the fire-place going, and the three pups all cozy near us has its charm also.
A SIMPLE BOUILLABAISSE
(adapted from several sources)
3 pounds of mild fish, cut into large pieces (I used cod and red snapper)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 pound clams
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced onions (I omitted)
1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced
1 can stewed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp saffron threads
2 tsp salt or more to taste
1 cup shrimp stock (made with shrimp shells, lemon and onions)
1 cup clam juice (store-bought)
orange zest and a bit of juice
parsley leaves, minced
Make the shrimp stock. In a sauce pan, add the shells, cover with water, juice of half a lemon and half an onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain, reserve the liquid to use in the bouillabaisse. In a small bowl, mix a couple of tablespoons of the shrimp stock with the strands of saffron, rubbing them between your fingers to release the oils. Reserve.
Heat the olive oil in a large pot on medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and fennel. Stir to coat the vegetables with the olive oil. Cook on medium heat until softened and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Do not let it brown. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, the saffron infused shrimp stock, salt, orange zest and juice. Simmer gently for 10 more minutes.
Add the pieces of fish, the shrimp, the reserved shrimp stock and the clam juice. Bring to a gentle boil, add parsley, simmer covered for 5 minutes. Add the clams, cook for 10 minutes or so until they open and are cooked through. Keep the heat at a very gentle level. Remove bay leaf before serving, adjust seasoning. Wonderful with a nice piece of sourdough bread.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: Traditionally, Bouillabaisse is served with a rouille on top. Think of a sauce made from hearty bread, olive oil, and other tasty suspects. I omitted, we had a slice of sourdough with it instead. I added a generous squirt of lemon juice to my bowl, it’s something I find myself doing so often, it always seem to make the food shine a bit brighter. If you want to simplify things even further, you can use just clam juice and water as the cooking liquid, but making shrimp stock is so simple, and it does intensify the seafood flavor in the soup. If you can find sea bass, definitely use it. It is the best fish, in my opinion, but as you can imagine, not easy to find in our neck of the woods. And when we do find it, we must be ready to shell some serious cash for it.
The smell as this soup-stew cooks is something! The main thing to pay attention to is not to overcook the delicate seafood, and keep the heat at a very gentle simmer, because shrimp in particular tends to toughen up easily. I had considered cooking the shrimp sous-vide separately and just add it to the soup when serving, but ended up going the more traditional route. If you have a sous-vide gadget, keep in mind that it makes absolutely perfect shrimp, with a texture you cannot get any other way.
The resident oyster-shucker made sure we have the perfect appetizer to open this meal…
Totally off-topic: today marks my first anniversary of….. braces!
One year down, one more to go (sigh)
ONE YEAR AGO: Bergamot-Cherry Macarons
TWO YEARS AGO: Roasted Veggies with Queso Cotija Dressing
THREE YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole
FOUR YEARS AGO: Maple Walnut Biscotti
FIVE YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas
SIX YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars
SEVEN YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks
EIGHT YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre
NINE YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini