Recipe: Bouillabaisse

I am not actually putting a recipe up.  I decided to the bouillabaisse recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  I was a little intimidated.  Maybe it is the name, bouillabaisse, it just sounds complicated.   The steps were surprisingly simple, but some of that came from the shortcuts I took.

I didn’t really change the recipe at all: I had to improvise in a few places based on what I had on hand and what I could do time and money-wise.

I am not saying it’s not worth the additional effort / money, to do this recipe exactly as written, but it is the holidays: who has extra time and money?

The first step is simple: sauté onions, leeks, tomatoes and garlic.  I also added a little bit of orange bell pepper, just because I like bell peppers.

The recipe calls for making your own fish stock with fish heads and bones.  I did not have time for this.  Alternatively, Child suggests using a mixture of water and clam juice.  Then there is secret option #3: buy fish stock.  That’s what I did.  In just a matter of minutes and the addition of some spices later, the soup base was ready to be simmered as directed.

Left: the broth before simmering. Right: using the immersion blender.

Child suggests passing the broth through a food mill to smooth it and remove the bones and other non-edibles.  I don’t own a food mill (shocker, I know, maybe when we have a bigger place… as it is, I have roasting pans and kitchen utensils hiding in every closet in the house).  Instead, I used an immersion blender to smooth the broth.  Since I used stock, I didn’t need to remove the fish bones.  I just picked out the bay leaf and orange peel.

Child suggests a variety of about six types of white fish for her bouillabaisse: some firm and some flakey varieties.  This may not always work budget-wise. The day we went to the market, it seemed the flakey, white fishes were more economical than the firm fishes Child suggests in her book, so we just used flakey white fish.  Added bonus, without the firm white fish, we were able to reduce the cooking time by about 20 minutes.

Adding the fish and mussels.

The fish market we frequent, Cherry Street Fish Market in Danvers, even has “chowder fish,” a mixture of small chunks of soft, flaky white fishes.  At four dollars a pound, this is a good alternative that will still work with the recipe.  Mussels and clams are generally also pretty inexpensive and add visual interest to the finished product.

The soup may not have been executed exactly as directed by Child, but it tasted fantastic.

Beautiful and tasty, this is the finished product. The slight orange tint to the broth is from the orange bell pepper I added.


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