BOUILLABAISSE FOR A CHILLY EVENING

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)
fresh thyme
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.

ENJOY!

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

 

 

12 thoughts on “BOUILLABAISSE FOR A CHILLY EVENING

    • they were big!!!! Usually we get much smaller but that day for some reason the grocery store ordered this different type. We bought the number we normally do (we love oysters), but it was not easy to finish them! 😉

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  1. Fortunately for us here in Coastal Carolina, we have complete access to fresh seafood right of the fishing boats all year long and often I make a “bouillabaise” often and what a treat every time… While my version varies from time to time it is always based on, of course, Julia’s recipe. We have planned a trip to the seafood market before the weekend hoping for a good day, but sadly rain is upon us again, so this dish is a possibility, thanks for the reminder. I recall my days in the mid-west and all of our traditional Christmas seafood dinners took a huge effort to gather fishy things for our feast, but I always managed. Have a great day!

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  2. Love both bouillabaisse and bourride and make them as often as I can get to the Sydney Fish Market for all the superfresh goodies. Kudos to you for preparing such a lovely version living away from seaside buying opportunities. Pity you could not get mussels . . . and do you have Pernod in your liquor cabinet: a small slosh adds wondrous qualities. That said the oysters you were able to get are beautifully plump and must have made a wonderful appetizer . . .

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    • Oh, how nice to “see” you here! yes, I guess it’s not really bragging, just a nod to a wonderful experience. It’s amazing that I cannot THINK about a seafood stew without that day popping in my mind…

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