National Bouillabaisse Day

December 14 is National Bouillabaisse Day. I just found out. Oops.

So, what's bouillabaisse?

Bouillabaisse is a  fish stew that originated in Marseilles, France. From how it was explained to me: Marseille fishermen typically make the dish when they return to port. Rather than using the expensive fish that they catch, they use common fish like rockfish and shellfish. The secret to the famous stew is keeping it simple. The broth is fortified with lots of seafood and trimmings, flavored with the typical flavors of the region: garlic, saffron, olive oil and tomatoes. Orange peel, basil, saffron, and bay leaf are added to the soup for flavor. Vegetables like onions, celery, and potatoes are modern day additions. The broth is traditionally served separately from the fish and shellfish with a rouille, a mayonnaise made of olive oil, garlic and saffron spread on grilled slices of bread.

This is my first attempt at a bouillabaisse
Serves 6-8

1/2 cup Olive oil
4 Shallots, thinly sliced
2 or 3 leeks (white part only), thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes
4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2-inch slice of fennel
1 pound of Oysters, clams, or mussels
1 cup shrimp, crab, or lobster meat, or rock lobster tails
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2-3 whole cloves of garlic
Zest of an orange
1/2 teaspoon saffron
3 pounds of at least 3 different kinds of fish fillets, fresh
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fish broth, clam juice or water
2 Tbps lemon juice (optional)
2/3 cup white wine
Sliced French bread

Sauce Rouille:

    1 Tbsp hot fish stock or clam broth
    2 cloves peeled garlic
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup soft white bread, pulled into bits
    1/2 cup olive oil

Put hot fish stock or clam broth into a blender or food processor (use a mortar and pestle, if you'd like). Add garlic, salt and bread. Blend until very smooth. With the machine still running, add olive oil slowly and stop the blending as soon as the oil disappears. At serving time pass rouille in a little bowl or slather toasted pieces of french bread with it and serve it alongside the bouillabaisse. Each serving is about 1/2 a teaspoon that you can also stir into your stew.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large (6-qt) pot on medium heat. When hot, add the shallots, leeks and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes until softened. Add tomato, celery, and fennel. Stir the vegetables into the oil with a wooden spoon until well coated. Then add another 1/4 cup of olive oil, thyme, bay leaf, cloves and the orange zest and saffron.

Cut fish fillets into 2-inch pieces. Add the pieces of fish, fish trimmings, water or broth, wine, sea salt and turn the heat to high to bring to a boil. Then turn the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes. Add oysters, clams or mussels and shrimp, crabmeat or lobster tails, cut into pieces or left whole. Be careful not to overcook the seafood, so turn off the heat after the 20-minute simmer

At serving time taste and correct the seasoning of the broth, adding a little more salt or pepper if need be, and maybe a touch of lemon juice. Ladle bouillabaisse into each serving dish and garnish with fresh fennel fronds. Place a thick slice of crusty French bread slathered with Sauce Rouille.

Rascasse (scorpionfish) from a market in Paris

Up-close and personal. Shrimp, cod, swordfish, oysters, saffron-flavored broth

National Bouillabaisse Day from around the web
Tumblr round-up

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About the author

Nikki Miller-Ka

Nikki Miller-Ka

Ms. Miller-Ka is a classically trained chef with a BA in English from East Carolina University and a Culinary Arts Associate Degree from Le Cordon Bleu-Miami.

Formerly, she’s worked as a researcher, an editorial assistant, reporter and guest blogger for various publications and outlets in the Southeast. She has also worked as a catering chef, a pastry chef, a butcher, a baker, and a biscuit-maker. Presently, she is a food editor, freelance food writer, and a tour guide for Taste Carolina Gourmet Food Tours.

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