Servings: 8 Prep: 20 min Cook: 30 min Total: 50 mins
Julia Child once wrote: “to me the telling flavor of Bouillabaisse comes from two things: the Provençal soup base — garlic, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, fennel, saffron, thyme, bay, and usually a bit of dried orange peel — and, of course, the fish — lean (non-oily), firm-fleshed, soft-fleshed, gelatinous, and shellfish.”
Bouillabaisse is a French seafood stew, originating over 2,500 years ago, in the South Eastern part of France. It’s usually a blend of both fish and shellfish. The core focus is on using very fresh seafood. The fish should wiggle, as it’s cooked. Additionally, it should use and very local seafood, which can be tough for the people of Denver. As a result, TRUE Bouillabaisse can really only come from France and use French seafood, French herbs and French vegetables. Alas, my version … is a cheap knockoff!
As is always the case, the fresher the better. The closer to the actual food source you are, the better (usually). Meaning, if you know the farmer who grew your onions, or the fisherman who caught your fish, you’re that much closer to a sublime Bouillabaisse experience. If you grow or catch your own, your stew will be even that much better!
Bouillabaisse had another eccentricity: It’s a stew, but it’s very often served with the goodies strained out and served separately from the broth. The broth is often served as a first course, with bread and Rouille, which is a mayonnaise made from saffron and cayenne. The seafood is often served separately!
Now, because the overwhelming majority of us are not in France, and we don’t eat bread, I’ve had to modify my recipe to be somewhat neutral in geography and lower in carbs. If you have both the access and the desire to add sea creatures such as eel, sea urchin, octopus, scorpion fish and spider crabs, definitely, completely, totally throw it in there (in due time, of course). I have opted out of these regional specifics, knowing the local grocery store is unlikely to carry these things. However, by no means does that diminish the time, care and attention that went into creating this really quick-to-make and amazing bowl of fresh brothy seafood!
Next time you’ve got company over, give this a shot! Oh’s and ah’s will abound!
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 cup white wine good quality
- 1 small onion peeled and diced
- 4 each garlic cloves minced
- 2 medium tomatoes diced
- 1 bulb fennel diced
- 1 each bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp saffron threads
- 1 tsp fresh thyme chopped
- 1/2 tsp fresh orange zest (peel)
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper ground
- 1 1/2 lb halibut fillets
- 32 medium-sized clams fresh and alive
- 32 medium-sized mussels fresh and alive
- 4 fillets dover sole
- 1 lb shrimp
- 1 cup rouille
- salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
- In a large pot, add your 1/4 cup of olive oil, wine, onion, garlic, tomato, fennel, saffron, cayenne, orange zest, thyme and bay leaf, with a little salt and pepper. Put it on the stove over medium-low heat with a lid and allow it to simmer. Allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes. This will soften everything and allow all the flavors to meld together.
- Note: A true bouillabaisse would have you add your seafood straight to the broth, in the order of the seafood's size and thickness. You can add your fish and seafood straight to the broth (after boning, cleaning, washing and/or cutting into portions), starting with the thicker cuts of fresh fish, down to the thinner cuts. That note is there for those that deviate from what I usually do ...
- While the broth simmers, soak your fresh clams and mussels in a bowl of cold water, with a slow, steady stream of cold water dropping from the faucet into the bowl. This helps remove a touch of extra saltiness and sand. Let this sit with the water dripping on it.
- Pick your clams and mussels out of the bowl, by scooping them up with your hands, and transferring them to another bowl. Any sand or debris should be left at the bottom of the original bowl. Wash the original bowl and set aside. We'll use it one more time. Place the new bowl of clams and mussels under the slow stream of cold water.
- Peel your shrimp and remove the big vein running through the back.
- Cut your fish into appropriate sizes. Large bite sized chunks is fine, but I opted for larger fillets. I thought it looked nicer when it was in the bowl.
- Transfer your clams and mussels one more time. With a wet towel, pull the beards from the mussels. This is done by grabbing the beard with the towel and pinching hard between your fingers, then deliberately pulling OUT and towards the hinge. Some come out easier than others, but this should just about do it. You may also want to scrub the outside of your mussel shells, if there are a lot of funky little barnacles, debris and other riddles and games attached to them. Once your clams and mussels are clean and happy, pull them up and out of the bowl and place them on a dry towel, or in a colander to drip dry.
- Place a large sauté pan on the stove over high heat.
- Season your thick halibut fillets with salt and pepper. Also coat them with olive oil (2 tbsp). Place them in your hot sauté pan and get a nice brown color on one side. When the first side has color, turn the fish over and sear the other side.
- When the second side of halibut has a nice sear, add your clams and mussels to the pan and shake everything around. Let sit for 30 seconds and then dump the halibut, clams and mussels into the pot with the broth. Place the lid on the pot and allow it to continue simmering.
- While that simmers, quickly clean out your hot sauté pan and keep it hot on high heat.
- Season your shrimp and sole with salt and pepper. Coat them with olive oil (2 tbsp) and place into the hot sauté pan to get a little color. Once one side sears, flip them over and sear the other side. Once both sides are seared, add them to the pot with the broth and replace the lid.
- Allow the whole pot to simmer for about 3 to 4 more minutes. From the moment you started cooking your halibut, to the moment the Bouillabaisse is added to the bowls, should be about 12 minutes. It goes quickly!
- Evenly divide your Bouillabaisse into bowls. Serve with Rouille!
STANDARD FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please note, I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with my ideals and I believe would be of value to my readers.
* Learn More: More about this recipe and nutrition …