I guess that part of the appeal of cooking and baking is the magic part. Watching or assisting in transformations is really what it’s all about. When I was a little girl I would hunt out the tv section of the newspaper to find when Julia Child’s The French Chef was going to be on. My nana and I were both devoted fans and I can still remember certain episodes so clearly, such a firm impression was made by the impressive transformations on the program. Shredded potatoes were formed into potato baskets and deep fried into crispy bowls! Cream, sugar and eggs were set in dishes in the oven and caramelized with a blowtorch afterwards! I was amazed, my eyes were dazzled, and I really wanted a blowtorch.
Some of the transformations which we enable in the kitchen are less dramatic, of course, but the delicious results speak for themselves. Bouillabaisse remains one of our favorite dishes, and it’s clearly one of those things that’s better than the sum of its parts. Delicious fish soup is brought to a boil, then drop in a few chunks of your favorite shellfish, fish, a few boiled potatoes, and let them simmer together until cooked through. A dollop of spicy garlic mayonnaise and a dried crouton or slice of grilled or toasted bread and voila, you have a bowl of simple ingredients, deliciously transformed.
There are so many theories as to what a “real” Bouillabaisse is supposed to have in it or NOT have in it – yes shellfish, no shellfish, broth base or thick soup base. We really can’t speak for everyone’s “classic” or “dream” Bouillabaisse, we can just show you how we like to make ours. Even Julia Child agreed that Bouillabaisse should have what your taste and budget allow, and that is exactly how we make it. The classic flavors: a great fish base, some garlic, onions, olive oil, fennel and saffron are the key to distinguishing Bouillabaisse from another fish stew. Some like a broth base, while we love to use Franck’s delicious classic Fish Soup as the base. The first step is to make a fish stock, which is actually not that hard at all. If you’re not up for it, however, you could purchase the stock or use bottled clam juice if you’re doing a Bouillabaisse that’s going to include shellfish.
Fish Stock (makes enough to freeze in containers for future use)
4 lbs clean fish bones (no gills, eyes, etc. ask at the fish counter for them to save some for you)
1 onion, diced
1 stick celery, diced
1 leek, cleaned well and sliced
10 cloves garlic (can leave whole)
-Sweat the above ingredients until translucent over medium high heat in a large soup casserole and ¼ c olive or plain oil. Add:
1 bouqet garnie (a bunch of herbs tied together with kitchen twine or wrapped in cheesecloth: 1 branch fresh thyme, 2 branches fresh parsley, 1 branch rosemary, 2 bay leaves)
2 c white wine
And then cover with water and bring to the boil. Skim the top of the stock and then turn down the heat and let cook slowly for about 25 minutes. Strain through a sieve and cool. You can freeze this until you’re ready to make your fish soup.
French Fisherman’s Soup
This soup is delicious on its own, with the traditional garnishes which are croutons, spicy aioli, and shredded gruyère cheese. It also makes a wonderful base for a classic Bouillabaisse.
The day before, marinate:
5 lbs mixed fish of choice (cod, sole, halibut, salmon, etc.)
1 large sliced onion
5 cloves chopped garlic
1 diced carrot
1 diced celery stick
1 T ground coriander
1 star anise, ground
2 pinches saffron
1/2 t pepper
½ c olive oil
2 diced fresh tomatoes
The next day,
Separate all of the fish from the vegetables and then sweat the veggies until soft over medium high heat in soup pot with the olive oil. Add 2 cups white wine, 2 quarts fish stock, 2 diced potatoes. Bring to simmer and add fish. When potatoes are soft, the soup is done. Purée in a blender; adjust seasoning and thickness of desired.
Bring soup to boil and add boiled potatoes, mix of fish/shellfish that you prefer. Serve with garlic crostini and rouille (spicy garlic mayonaisse).
This magic sauce gives a creamy kick to the final dish. It also is amazing on sandwiches or as a dip for any kind of fritter, crab cake, whatever you’re in the mood for.
½ c store-bought or homemade mayonnaise
½ clove crushed garlic
Juice of ½ lemon
½ t chili paste, harissa, hot sauce
Pinch toasted and crushed saffron