Bouillabaisse – Not Just For Spies

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The from the moment I watched Derek Flint (James Coburn) sample bouillabaisse in Marseilles in the 1966 film Our Man Flint — an amusing parody of James Bond — I was fascinated and intrigued about all the fuss over a bowl of soup. But as I later discovered, bouillabaisse isn’t just any bowl of soup.

Bouillabaisse is a highly seasoned Mediterranean soup or stew made of several kinds of fish and shellfish with tomatoes and onions or leeks and seasoned with saffron and garlic and herbs. And since bouillabaisse originates from the port city of Marseille, any Frenchman (or woman) will tell you bouillabaisse is to be eaten only in Marseille.

In Marseille, tradition holds that a French server presents a selection of fish on a platter from which the patron chooses. After selecting the fish, the patron is then served with a bowl saffron laden broth made with leeks, onions, tomatoes, garlic, orange peel, and fennel. The broth is then poured over the fish selection which may include scorpionfish, sea robin, rockfish, European conger, or shellfish. Complimenting the bouillabaisse are bread rounds and rouille, a mayonnaise made of olive oil, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper. Humm.

It just so happens that one of our foodie’s has a great BOUILLABAISSE recipe to share:

Ingredients
For croutons 12 to 16 (1/2-inch-thick) baguette slices 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 garlic clove, halved For soup 1 (1- to 1 1/4-lb) live lobster 2 large tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped 1 large onion, chopped 4 garlic cloves, chopped 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 1 lb boiling potatoes 1/3 cup finely chopped fennel fronds (sometimes called anise) 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf 1/4 tsp crumbled saffron threads 11/2 tbsp coarse sea salt 1/2 tsp black pepper 9 cups white fish stock 3 lb mixed skinned white fish fillets (such as monkfish, turbot, red snapper, striped bass, porgy, grouper, and/or cod), cut into 2-inch pieces Rouille.

Directions
Make croutons: Preheat oven to 250F. Arrange bread slices in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan and brush both sides with oil. Bake in middle of oven until crisp, about 30 minutes. Rub 1 side of each toast with a cut side of garlic.

Make soup: Plunge lobster headfirst into a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling water, then cook, covered, 2 minutes from time lobster enters water. Transfer lobster with tongs to a colander and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Discard hot water in pot. Put lobster in a shallow baking pan. Twist off claws with knuckles from body, then crack claws with a mallet or rolling pin and separate claws from knuckles. Halve body and tail lengthwise through shell with kitchen shears, then cut crosswise through shell into 2-inch pieces.

Reserve lobster juices that accumulate in baking pan. Cook tomatoes, onion, and garlic in oil in cleaned 6- to 8-quart pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Stir potatoes into tomatoes with fennel fronds, bay leaf, saffron, sea salt, and pepper. Add stock and bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Add thicker pieces of fish to soup and simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes. Stir in remaining fish and lobster, including juices, and simmer, uncovered, until they are just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir 3 tablespoons broth from soup into rouille until blended. Arrange 2 croutons in each of 6 to 8 deep soup bowls. Carefully transfer fish and lobster from soup to croutons with a slotted spoon, then ladle some broth with vegetables over seafood. Top each serving with 1 teaspoon rouille and serve remainder on the side.

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Spence Cooper
Inquisitive foodie with a professional investigative background and strong belief in the organic farm to table movement. Author of Bad Seeds: A FriendsEAT Guide to GMO's. Buy Now!
Spence Cooper
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