I can count on two hands the list of my favorite foods; bouillabaisse is one of them. Anytime I go to a restaurant and there is bouillabaisse on the menu I order it. What I love most about bouillabaisse is the intense and varied flavors you get from something that looks so simple. A great bouillabaisse is comforting, elegant, and complex in flavor.
While the recipe is traditional, each bowl of bouillabaisse I have tasted is unique. You can taste each chef’s personality as they have put their own spin on technique and the ingredients. Bouillabaisse can be intimidating to make at home but I hope after reading this you will feel inspired and confident to tackle this challenge and make it.
Before we go any further there is some confusion between bouillabaisse and a similar seafood stew called cioppino. While very similar, cioppino and bouillabaisse are unique in their own right. They both originated from Mediterranean fishermen, and they are both seafood-based stews.
Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provencal fish stew that originated from the port city of Marseille, while cioppino originated in San Francisco by Italian immigrants. Bouillabaisse starts with a “white” base, meaning some sort of fish stock, with a few tomatoes and a key ingredient of saffron, while cioppino is a true tomato-based stew. There are some purists out there who insist that only certain fish can be used in order to make a “true” bouillabaisse or “true” cioppino, but I humbly disagree.
The creation of bouillabaisse was inspired by what was available to the fishermen at the time. I encourage you to follow that same logic and use fish that is available to you. I believe all great recipes are created with the ingredients that are uniquely yours. A good bowl of comforting bouillabaisse should not only reflect WHERE you are but WHO you are.
In general I like to look at a recipe as an overall skeleton for technique and then put my own spin on the ingredients. A traditional bouillabaisse contains potatoes, I personally like an all-seafood stew so I omit the potatoes in my recipe, but feel free to add them into yours if you like.
It is also important to eat responsibly. I am a huge advocate of the environment, especially when it comes to our oceans. Using sustainable and responsibly-caught fish is so important, so make sure to talk to the guy at your fish counter and read your labels if you only have access to frozen fish to ensure it’s coming from a reliable source.
The bread and rouille is just as much a part of a bouillabaisse as the actual soup. Rouille is something magical. It’s garlicky, creamy and perfectly compliments the sweet undertones of a bouillabaisse. Again open to interpretation, you can adjust seasonings and ingredients as needed. I personally love big, contrasting flavors, so opted for a roasted red pepper rouille. The smokiness of the peppers is just an extra bonus layer of flavor in this already flavor-packed meal.
Traditionally a French baguette is used for the croutons and rouille but because I follow a strict gluten free diet I use a gluten free bread for my recipe. Again use what ever floats your boat. I cut my bread into diamond shapes and I used the crusts to make breadcrumbs. I like using crusts to make the breadcrumbs in this recipe because it adds a really sturdy texture to the rouille. If you want your rouille to be smoother use the insides of the bread.
To make this soup I start with fresh seafood, I filet the fish myself but you can also ask your fishmonger to do it for you. I don’t like using the heads in my stock even though I know there is a ton of flavor locked in there. Quite frankly it gives me the heeby jeebies, so I leave it out and the flavor of the stock is still incredible.
I remove the lobster and shrimp from their shells and add those in as well reserving the meat for later. Once I cook all the aromatics together, I add the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer.
Next I want to blend it all together. I used the KitchenAid® Pro Line 5-Speed Cordless Hand Blender. What I love most about this Hand Blender is that it’s got enough power to crush all the fish bones and lobster shells in a matter of seconds.
Before, I would have to manually crush the bones and shells either in a food mill, or in a traditional blender. The problem with using a those methods is that it gets very messy, very quickly, not mention most blenders and food mills can’t break up all the bits and pieces like this Hand Blender can. With the KitchenAid® Hand Blender I can plunge it into my stock and I can be assured that I am extracting the maximum amount of flavor quickly and with very little mess.
Also I made the rouille with the hand blender as well. I like the fact I could crush the croutons to make breadcrumbs, crush the garlic and blend the rest of the rouille together all in one cup.
After the broth is strained. I add my seafood, and once all the fish is cooked I serve immediately. The key is to not over cook your fish, so make sure before you start your guests are seated, they have their wine, and your croutons are all rouilled up.
Read this recipe over, get inspired, be adventurous, be brave and be patient. This soup is worth it!
For the fish:
2 three-pound whole white fish (snapper, cod, whitefish, etc.) scaled, cleaned and filleted
1/2 pound small hard-shelled clams, cleaned
1/2 pound cultivated mussels, scrubbed and bearded
1/2 pound wild caught shrimp, shelled and deveined (reserve shells)
2 lobster tails, shelled (reserve shells)
For the fish stock:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
4 clove garlic, roughly chopped
2 leeks, washed well and chopped
1 fennel bulb, sliced
2 tablespoons Pernod or similar pastis
6 medium ripe tomatoes, diced
2 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves
6 parsley stems (whole)
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
Zest of 1 large orange
1 cup white wine
Bones from two 2-pound whole white fish
Shells from lobster and shrimp
1 teaspoon saffron
For the croutons:
14 (1/2-inch thick) slices of bread of your choice (traditionally French baguette is used)
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the Rouille:
1 roasted bell pepper, skins removed
1 tablespoon Dijon
3 garlic cloves
1 egg yolk
1 lemon, juiced
1 cup chopped up croutons (see above)
1/2 cup olive oil
Pinch salt and pepper
For the fish stock:
Cut fish filets cut into 2 inch pieces set aside. Reserve the bones.
In a wide 8-10 quart pot heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, and garlic and cook for 10 minutes or until the onions are soft but not colored. Add the leeks and fennel and cook, covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and add white wine and let it reduce by half.
Cut the fish bones into 4-6 inch pieces. Add the fish bones to the pot, along with the lobster and shrimp shells, tomatoes, parsley, bay leaves, orange zest, pastis, thyme and 2 teaspoons sea salt. Add enough cold water to cover the fish bones (approx. 8 cups). Cook at a simmer uncovered for 35 minutes.
Take your KitchenAid® Pro Line Cordless Hand Blender with the 4-blade attachment and blend all the ingredients together. The KitchenAid® Pro Line Cordless Hand Blender is strong enough to break up a majority of the shell and bone but don’t worry about making it completely liquid. Strain your blended stock into a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Clean out your stockpot and fine mesh strainer. Line a piece of cheesecloth over the fine mesh strainer. Place on top of the pot and pass the liquid through one more time.
Add the saffron to the broth and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and use the KitchenAid® Pro Line Cordless Hand Blender to emulsify the broth. Set aside. If a greasy film starts to form on top of the broth skim it as needed.
NOTE: this broth can be made up to a day in advance.
For the croutons:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay on a baking sheets and brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or until croutons are crispy.
For the Rouille:
Add all ingredients except for olive oil into the pitcher that comes with the KitchenAid® Pro Line Cordless Hand Blender or use a large bowl. Pulse the KitchenAid® Pro Line Cordless Hand Blender as you move it up and down, breaking down all the ingredients into a paste. Slowly drizzle olive oil in and continue to blend until smooth.
Assembling the Bouillabaisse
When you are ready to assemble the dish make sure you have the following. You will need to work quickly and efficiently:
-Cleaned and scrubbed mussels and clams
-Portioned fish and lobster on a plate ready to go
-Large pot of fish stock brought up to a simmer
-Croutons and a small bowl of rouille on the table for guests to serve themselves their bouillabaisse
First add the thicker pieces of fish and clams into the simmering broth, cover and cook 2 minutes.
Stir in the rest of the fish, lobster, shrimp and mussels. Cover for another 3-4 minutes or until the mussels are open.
Using a slotted spoon carefully portion out the fish into the serving bowls and ladle in broth. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Serve with croutons and rouille.
*The Contributor of this post has been compensated by KitchenAid for this post, but this post represents the Contributor’s own opinion.*