Skip to content

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse 1

A Bouillabaisse, for those unfamiliar, is a seafood soup claimed, by the residents of Marseille, in southern France, as their very own specialty. For the rest of you who have tried it elsewhere, the chances are virtually certain that it was a derivation of the sort that would have a Marseillaise restaurateur rolling his or her eyes and squawking Gallic epithets of deep disapproval.

According to tradition, a Bouillabaisse, was a very rustic soup made by French fisherman, who employed the less saleable remnants of the day’s catch which they then boiled (‘bouille’) for supper. It is said, in that part of the world, that a true version of the dish must contain at least three or four species of rock fish from the native waters and thus, since these fish are rarely available elsewhere, a Bouillabaisse, in other parts, will necessarily differ. Indeed, whereas a Marseillaise Bouillabaisse, is mostly fish, and only includes the occasional odd variety of shellfish, other versions are often mostly shellfish and can include, lobster, scallops, shrimp and clams. Far be it for me to argue the point with the guild of Marseille restaurateurs (who once drafted a charter specifying exactly what constitutes the dish), but I do recognize that any dish can have a whole variety of otherwise acceptable versions that the strict ‘purists’ will always disavow. Still, I do feel that, to properly be called a Bouillabaisse, certain features must come together:

In my opinion, a Bouillabaisse is a seafood soup based on a broth heavily redolent of the ocean, but infused with the additional flavors of saffron, garlic and fennel, with a bit of dried orange peel optionally added for that special taste. Potatoes, tomatoes and leeks are all welcome additions and a little bit of wine is also very nice. I think that some variety of fish (as opposed to just shellfish) really should be added, but for the present experiment, since I had nothing I thought suitable available, I am using a combination of shellfish only…

The Ingredients

Bouillabaisse 2

This is the selection of shellfish I decided to use.:

  • Scallops: I only used three very large scallops and sliced them horizontally;
  • Clams: Some of the Mirabel brand frozen variety (very good);
  • ‘Kiwi Clams’: These are clearly mussels rather than clams (New Zealand in origin, I presume). I bought them from a local who ships up various seafood products at Christmastime. Whole, rather than half-shell would be preferable as would raw, rather than cooked.
  • Scampi: Also known as ‘langoustines’, these were also purchased from the same guy who sold me the mussels. These are just the tails. The whole scampi would be nicer, especially for presentation, and, again, I would have preferred raw rather than pre-cooked;

For the base of the broth, I am using the Simple Shellfish Stock I made up for another dish as I had some leftover in the freezer. In a traditional Bouillabaisse, the stock is created by boiling the fish and other ingredients, but, outside of Marseille, at least, a pre-made stock is very commonly employed. This can be clam broth, a richer seafood stock, or even (as I have seen) chicken stock. As a matter of fact, since I don’t have quite enough of my shellfish stock for this experiment, I am actually going to eke out the quantity with a cup or so of chicken stock and white wine as well. Here, then, are the remaining ingredients, excluding the shellfish shown above:

  • 1.5 quarts good Shellfish Stock;
  • ¾ cup White Wine;
  • 1 good pinch Saffron;
  • 3 cloves Garlic, left whole but slightly crushed;
  • 1 tbsp. Fennel Seed;
  • 8 – 10 Black Peppercorns;
  • 1 Bay Leaf;
  • 2 strips dried Orange Peel, pith removed ideally;
  • 6 – 8 baby potatoes;
  • ½ cup chopped leek (white part only);
  • Salt as needed

The Method

Bouillabaisse 3

We will actually be making our broth in two stages (well, three if you count making the original stock too). First, add the stock base and wine to a suitable sized pot and then throw in the garlic, fennel seed, peppercorns, saffron, bay leaf and orange peel. Bring this to a low boil and the turn down the heat and gently simmer for one to two hours. At the end of this time, strain the broth, discarding the solids, and set it aside for the time being.

Bouillabaisse 4

Next, sauté the chopped leek in a little olive oil until just softened.

Bouillabaisse 5

Add the strained broth and the potatoes. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook just until the potatoes can be pierced with a toothpick;

Bouillabaisse 6

Traditionally, a bouillabaisse is eaten by removing the fish from the broth, eating it separately and then drinking the broth with toasted bread (often with a rouille). Most commonly these days, though, the meal is eaten as a single dish. You could serve everything in a singe tureen, or, as I prefer, arrange the components attractively in individual bowls with the broth poured over. The simplest way to complete the cooking is to first remove the potatoes two the serving bowls along with a little of the broth and keep the warm in the oven.

Bouillabaisse 7

Now, stack the various seafood products in a suitable pan so that they will be easy to retrieve individually and then pour over the still-hot broth. Cover and continue to cook over a gentle heat until all the seafood is just cooked. The length of time will depend on what variety of seafood you have chosen but, in my case, since only the scallops were raw, this took about 5 minutes.

Bouillabaisse 8

Finally, you can transfer the various components to the serving bowls, arranging them attractively, pour over the broth and then serve immediately.

The Verdict

This may not have been the prettiest bouillabaisse I have ever eaten, or made, but I have to say that the broth was about the best I have had yet. The mussels were, I think, the star of the show, but the scallops were very nice too. I was a bit disappointed with the quality of the scampi. They were quite sweet-tasting but the flesh was a little friable, suggesting they were originally over-cooked. I will have to think carefully about buying them from the same source again, I suppose. Anyway, I was very please with this and look forward to doing it again, perhaps with some actual fish, rather than just shellfish next time.

19 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi,
    Oh yes that does look very nice, I love shellfish, so this dish would be perfect. I love the way you have also arranged the shellfish very nice.

    January 2, 2013
    • Thank you … some crab or lobster claws would have looked nice too 🙂

      January 2, 2013
  2. Good idea to use fish next time. I try not to be a purist snob (and fail miserably), but bouillabaisse without any fish at all and without rouille is pushing it a bit I think 😉 It may be confusing to call something bouillabaisse when it’s really something else. Apart from the name I bet your “soupe de crustacées” was pretty tasty though!

    January 2, 2013
    • Actually, I’ve never had it served with rouille in any restaurants. I generally do use fish but all I had was some frozen char that was sliced to thinly to work here.

      January 2, 2013
      • The bouillabaisse “charter” was written to let you know as a restaurant patron what to expect. Those restaurants apparently did not read the charter 😉

        January 2, 2013
      • I doubt they even know it exists… I actually like the idea of their being official recipes, like the ‘Appelation Controllee’ for wine.

        January 2, 2013
      • Yes, I was surprised to read that you had “bouillabasse” sans rouille too…

        January 3, 2013
      • Maybe next batch 🙂

        January 3, 2013
  3. the bouillabaisse looks divine 😉

    January 2, 2013
    • Thank you very much… it certainly was tasty 🙂

      January 2, 2013
  4. This looks delicious (nice pictures too)! Usually I only see a very tomato-y bouillabaisse and have always felt the tomatoes overwhelmed the delicate fish and shellfish flavors. Like yours with leeks and like the fennel suggestion too.

    January 2, 2013
    • Yes .. a little tomato is okay, but I have had some that were basically tomato soup. I just used fennel seed, but fennel bulb is very nice too!

      January 2, 2013
  5. Your broth and your fresh ingredients looks amazing. I had bouillabaisse when we drove along the French Riveria in stopped off in Nice for lunch. Fresh seafood and fresh sea air a perfectly wonderful delight! Take care, BAM

    January 3, 2013
    • Now… *that’s* the place to eat Bouillabaisse!!

      January 3, 2013
      • Very true. The seaside is gravy.

        January 3, 2013
      • feochadan #

        The broth of this dish was absolutely WONDERFUL!

        January 6, 2013
  6. If you are looking for a scam forex site, this is the place for you. Here you find all forex scammers!

    January 14, 2013
  7. Hey! This is the third time visiting now and I really just wanted to say I truley fancy looking at your blogging site. I have decided to bookmark it at reddit.com with the title: %BLOGTITLE% and your Domain name: %BLOGURL%. I hope this is alright with you, I’m trying to give your excellent blog a bit more coverage. Be back shortly.

    December 24, 2014

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Mussels Steamed with Black Beans | Sybaritica

Comments, thoughts or suggestions most welcome...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Meet & Eats

The food that I've had the pleasure of meeting and eating.

Uncle Grumpy's Playroom

Current events, humor, science, religion, satire

Food Travel Lover

走过的地方 尝过的美食 留下的回忆

The Odd Pantry

Essays on food

Reputable Sources

Organizing ferments since 2013

that Other Cooking Blog

. food . photo . sous vide .

REMCooks

My Virtual Cookbook to Share My Love and Joy of Food and Cooking One Recipe at a Time

lola rugula

my journey of cooking, gardening, preserving and more

Yummy Lummy

I cook, photograph and eat food with the occasional restaurant review!

Eye Of the Beholder

A pair of eternally curious eyes and a camera...Life is beautiful.

gluten free zen

Taking The Stress Out Of Gluten-Free Grain-Free & Dairy-Free Living

Clayton's Kitchen

Big flavors and fun cooking from a cubbyhole kitchen

Bunny Eats Design

Happy things, tasty food and good design

DENTIST CHEF

Dentist chef, just a dentistry student who practice the dentist's cooking recipes in a dentist's kitchen

Mad Dog TV Dinners

Guess what's coming to dinner?

Chefsopinion

Real Food & Real Opinions

Bento Days

Making bentos for kids

Garden to Wok

Fresh and tasty!

Bam's Kitchen

Healthy World Cuisine

Trang Quynh

everyone is special in their own way :)

Farm to Table Asian Secrets

Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season

HolyPrettyApple

If people say that life is too short to drink bad wine, it means also that life is too short to eat crappy food!

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

The Unorthodox Epicure

Confessions of an Aspiring Food Snob

The 好吃 Challenge

1 girl, 273 days, 100 recipes

Rabbitcancook

a recipe sharing and bento blog

benleeirene

Just another WordPress.com site

The Food Nazi

Never try to eat more than you can lift

Expat Chef in Barcelona

From my kitchen to yours

Keeping Up With the Holsbys

a journey into my head and my pantry

Nurul's Culinary Adventures

I Love Food, the Universe and Everything!!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

home-cooking recipes, restaurant reviews, International cuisine ,

Naked Vegan Cooking

Body-positive Vegan Goodness

Bites of Food History

Sharing my Experimental Archaeology of Food

Stefan's Gourmet Blog

Cooking, food, wine

FOODTRAIL

A Journey About Food, Recipes And Destinations

bcfoodieblogger

Fresh, exciting and adventurous food journey

One Man's Meat

Multi-award winning food blog, written in Dublin, Ireland.

%d bloggers like this: