"Bouillabaisse, this golden soup, this incomparable golden soup which embodies and concentrates all the aromas of our shores and which permeates, like an ecstasy, the stomachs of astonished gastronomes. Bouillabaisse is one of those classic dishes whose glory has encircled the world, and the miracle consists of this: there are as many bouillabaisses as there are good chefs or cordon bleus. Each brings to his own version his special touch."
Bouillabaisse as you probably may well know comes in many forms, and depending upon budget, availability of produce, and the will of the chef can be served as great peasant food all the way through to the highest form of fine dining.
This recipe somewhere near the top end of the scale in complexity and cost, it's an interesting and fairly lengthy process for a keen cook, quite challenging, but my ! how fantastic is the result! It's really worth the time and effort - a truly memorable meal for your guests, friends or family to enjoy!
I am going to cook the bouillabaisse in several stages.
for the fish soup:
2 large fresh tomatoes
2 sprigs of fennel leaves
2 garlic cloves
dried orange peel
a few stands of saffron
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.5 kg "poissons de roche" *
*Poissons de roche (literally rock fish) are small mediterranean fish of various species.There is no precise equivalent outside of France so perhaps the trimmings of fish such as halibut, red snapper, sea bream, even clams, mussels and shrimp could be used.
To begin, take a large saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and cook the flesh of the two large tomatoes with the fennel sprigs, bay leaf, peeled and lightly crushed garlic cloves, the piece of dried orange rind, a little saffron and lightly seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
After 5 minutes add the poissons de roche or as is more likely the fish trimming as above. Now add 1.5 litres of cold water, bring to the boil and immediately turn to a bare simmer. Cook for 45 minutes. Take a fine sieve and pour the soup through pushing down on the fish to extract as many of the juices as possible.
Set aside and prepare the bouillabaise.
It is very important to have the freshest fish possible, so try to use the highest quality fishmonger. Again the ingredient list here lists fish perhaps not readily available, but can easily be substituted with sea bream, halibut, red snapper etc.
Ingredients for the bouillabaise (for 6)
6 monkfish steaks
6 conger eel steaks
1 weever fish
1 John Dory
4 medium rascasse (scorpion fish)
sprigs of fennel, 3 large tomatoes, 3 potatoes, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, a little saffron
Get your fishmonger to clean and scale the fish but ask him/her to reserve the fish livers for you (by the way monkfish livers can be huge - a whole one would be sufficient).
Aside from the freshness of the fish, the key to this dish is the marinade. Place all the fish into a large dish, and add the marinade ingredients, fennel, tomato, potato, sea salt and black pepper, a little saffron and some olive oil. Mix well, cover and leave to marinade for a couple of hours.
Now place the fish soup back onto the stove and bring slowly up to the boil. As soon as it is boiling reduce the heat and add the potatoes and all the marinade ingredients to the soup with the exception of the fish. Now simmer for no more than 12 minutes.
Add the firm fleshed fish, the monkfish, the scorpion fish and the conger eel and cook for 10 minutes. Now add the soft fleshed fish the John Dory and the weever and cook for no more than 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning as required.
As a main course the bouillabaise is served with the potatoes and the broth or soup. As a starter the potatoes are omitted.
To go with the bouillabaisse there are two traditional accompaniments, garlic croutons with shredded cheese, and a rouille. I've covered the traditional rouille in a previous recipe for provencal fish soup, however there is another recipe I'd like to share which is sea urchin rouille. Sea urchin rouille is not as strong as traditional rouille and is delicious.
5 tablespoons sea urchin coral
fish livers - 5 small or 1/4 monkfish liver
3 garlic cloves
1 egg yolk
sea salt and black pepper
a few strands of saffron
Firstly pluge the fish liver into the hot fish soup for 2 minutes and then drain well. Using a mortar and pestle, mash the livers with the 3 garlic cloves. Add the egg yolk, a little sea salt and black pepper, a few strands of saffron and the sea urchin coral. Slowly beat in the olive oil, a little at a time to thicken like a mayonnaise.
Serve immediately, and I can assure you, regardless of your guests expectations, this will blow those expectations far and wide. It is a truly memorable cooking and eating experience.