I’m working on an essay about this dish for lohud, so I won’t tip my hat too far here. But I will say this: after a trip to the farmers market, and some very sage advice from our fishmonger, I made the best bouillabaisse ever. Was it traditional? Not exactly.
But was it delicious? Absolutely.
I got two great pieces of advice before embarking on this recipe. 1., from Derek, who told me to look up the recipe by David Waltuck of Chanterelle. His trick was to puree the vegetables then strain the broth to make a delicious base for the soup.
From the selection he had, he recommended:
- John Dory. The chicken breast of fillets.
- Monkfish. You can’t overcook it. Put it in first so it will flavor the broth.
- Hake. Or any kind of cod-ish fish. Put it last and cook just til it flakes.
We had seven fish all together (the above, plus scallops, clams, mussels and shrimp). The stock — from our lobster feast this summer — was stunning. And the rouille, just spicy enough to give the whole dish a kick, while not taking away from the soup’s overall umami.
For the rouille
One 3-inch piece of baguette, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 tablespoons water
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the bouillabaisse
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
2 onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
2 fennel bulb—fronds reserved, bulb cored and cut into 1/4-inch dice
6 garlic cloves, 3 coarsely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (with liquid)
2 bay leaves
Pinch of saffron threads
3 tablespoons pastis or Pernod
3 quarts lobster stock (recipe here)
Eight 1/2-inch-thick baguette slices, cut on the bias
4 Yukon Gold potatoes (2 pounds), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 pound monkfish, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound mussels
1 dozen little neck clams, scrubbed
1 pound John Dory (or other firm fish), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound scallops
1 pound shrimp (about 15)
1 pound cod, hake or other flaky fish, cut into 1-inch pieces
In a mini food processor, sprinkle the diced bread with the water and let stand until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cayenne and salt and process until the bread and garlic are coarsely chopped. With the machine on, drizzle in the olive oil and process until the rouille is smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate.
In a very large, deep stock pot, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the leeks, onion, fennel and chopped garlic and cook over moderate heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to break down, about 5 minutes. Add the bay leaves, saffron and pastis and bring to a boil. Add the lobster stock and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.
In a food processor, pulse the vegetables and broth to a coarse puree. Strain through a fine sieve set over the stock pot.
Preheat the broiler. Arrange the baguette slices on a baking sheet and broil them 6 inches from the heat for about 1 minute per side, until the slices are golden brown around the edges. Rub each slice with the remaining whole garlic clove and drizzle lightly with olive oil. (Or alternatively, toast them.)
Add the potatoes and cayenne pepper to the broth and bring to a simmer. Cook over moderately high heat until the potatoes are just tender, about 10 minutes; season with salt and pepper.
Add the monkfish. Add the mussels and clams, cover and cook over moderate heat until they just begin to open, about 3 minutes. Add John Dory, cook for 3 minutes. Add the scallops and shrimp, cook for 3 minutes, until they are no longer translucent. Add the cod, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until it’s somewhat flaky.
Set a baguette toast in each of 8 shallow bowls. Ladle the fish and broth over the toasts and top each serving with 1 tablespoon of the rouille. Sprinkle with fennel fronds, squeeze with lemon and serve immediately.