Bouillabaise is a seafood stew that hails from Marseille in the southern Provence region of France. Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, this region has abundant seafood. The dish was originally a stew prepared by fishermen using seafood that they could not sell at market. A variety of seafood can be used, but it typically is made with a variety of shellfish and fish.
The fragrant broth is the true hallmark of the dish, including onions, leeks, fennel, garlic, saffron, and cayenne. Crusty baguette makes the perfect accompaniment for soaking up the broth. Traditionally, the bread is topped with a homemade mayonnaise spread and the bread and seafood are served separately then assembled before eating. This simpler version is slightly less labor intensive, but lacking none of the flavor.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 cup fennel, chopped
- 1½ cups leeks, whites only, thinly sliced
- ¼ tsp salt
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup beefsteak tomatoes, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- Pinch of saffron leaves
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- 4 cups seafood or fish stock
- 1- 16oz lobster tail (optional)
- 2 cups fingerling potatoes, halved or quartered into similar sizes
- 2 dozen littleneck clams
- 2 lbs sturdy white fish (such as rockfish, monkfish, halibut, or cod), cut into 2 inch pieces
- 2 dozen mussels
- ½ lb scallops
In a large pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion, fennel, and leeks. Season with salt. Cook until translucent. Add tomato and garlic and cook until tomatoes become soft. Add bay leaves, cayenne, and saffron and cook for 2 minutes. Add fish stock. Cover and let simmer on low heat for 20-25 minutes. Remove bay leaves.
Add broth and vegetables to a blender or food processor. Puree into a loose, chunky sauce. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer. Place strained broth back into large pot. Discard the vegetables.
In a separate pot, boil lobster until shell is bright red, about 5 minutes. Remove from boiling water and set aside. Add fingerling potatoes to boiling water and cook until soft. Remove from boiling water. Once lobster has cooled, remove tail and claws.
In large pot, heat broth to a simmer. Add clams and cook for 2 minutes covered with lid. Lift lid and add fish pieces and mussels. Recover pot and cook for 6 additional minutes. Add lobster and potatoes, recover, and cook for 2 more minutes to heat through.
Portion the bouillabaisse into 6 dishes. Serve with toasted baguette.