Bouillabaisse is a fisherman’s stew, enjoyed in a variety of versions since ancient Marseille fishermen. Traditionally, seafood that is most readily available and freshly caught goes into the pot, along with local vegetables in season. Also traditionally, the bony, less sellable fish was used, along with shellfish. However, today’s chef will use a variety of desirable seafood options.
For our recipe, we’re calling for clams, mussels, shrimp, and your favorite choice of white fish. We’ve then added some onion, lots of garlic and chunky tomatoes to a flavorful fish stock that really helps make this soup savory. Then, we’ve whipped up a quick hearty rouille sauce made from garlic, salt, saffron, marjoram and spicy cayenne with a dash of water and thickened with chopped bread. All gets blended smooth and dolloped on top of your bouillabaisse. Try this tasty fare and let us know what you think.
Use your fingers or a mortar and pestle to crush ½ teaspoon saffron threads into powder. Separate into two equal portions in small prep bowls (¼ teaspoon for rouille; ¼ teaspoon for soup) and set aside for later.
Select only the live shellfish: test mussels by tapping shells gently on counter top or by opening and closing with your fingers a few times. If the mussels close their shells completely, they are alive and edible. Any that remain open should be discarded and not eaten. Also look clams over and discard any that are open or broken.
Debeard mussels as needed: using fingers covered with a dry towel, pull quickly and sharply on any tough, thin fibers that may be sticking out of the shell (be sure to tug toward the narrow hinge end of the shell) until the beard releases, and then discard fibers.
Soak the shellfish: fill large bowl with cold water and submerge mussels and clams for 20 minutes, allowing them to purge any excess salt or sand. Scoop the shellfish out of the water, careful not to include any sand that may be at the bottom of the bowl. Scrub shells with firm brush under cool running water and then set aside.
Rinse white fish under cool running water and pat dry with a paper towel. Set aside for later.
Rinse shrimp in cold water and then peel and devein them. You can leave the tail on if you like.
Fill small saucepan with water and bring to a boil.
In a bowl, prepare ice water and keep close to stove.
Using a sharp knife, score the bottom of each tomato with an X. Using slotted spoon or ladle, submerge one tomato, bottom side up, in the boiling water for 15 seconds, or until skin begins to peel back from incision marks.
Transfer tomato into ice water until cooled, then allow to drain. Repeat process for each tomato.
Using paring knife, begin peeling back the skin from the scored lines. The skin should slip right off. Cut tomatoes in half horizontally. Use fingers or a spoon to scoop out seeds over a bowl. Discard seeds. Roughly chop tomatoes and set aside.
Peel and finely chop the garlic.
Cut bread into ½ inch cubes.
In a food processor, add the bread and drizzle water over the top. Allow to soak for 5 minutes, and then add the following:
saffron (½ of crushed spice)
Pulse until bread is finely chopped. Process on low while slowly drizzling olive oil into the mixture. Continue processing until smooth. Pour rouille into a bowl, cover and set aside for later.
Heat 4 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high. Sauté onions until soft and transparent (about 5 – 7 minutes). Add garlic and continue sautéing until aromatic (about 1 minute more). Stir in tomatoes and cook another 2 minutes.
Then add the following:
saffron (remaining half)
Reduce heat to low and simmer covered for 5 minutes.
Add white fish and continue simmering for 2 minutes.
Add mussels and clams and simmer for an additional 2 minutes.
Now add in the shrimp. Simmer for about 2 more minutes, or until shrimp is cooked through, turning pink.
Remove from heat and fish out the bay leaf. Divide bouillabaisse into serving bowls and top with a little bit of rouille.
Enjoy immediately with a slice of freshly baked bread for soaking up the tasty broth. Optionally garnish with a sprig of basil.
Note: You can add more vegetables to this recipe, like potatoes, carrots or fennel (both the bulbs cooked in the soup and fronds chopped for garnish).