Bouillabaisse a la Tom
This recipe draws heavily from Julia Child’s bouillabaisse, but I’ve replaced some of the fish with vegetables, and added a few spices. This probably takes about 3 hours to make (more if you need to boil fish heads). Serves 6-8.
The Soup Base
- 1 cup sliced yellow onions
- ¾ to 1 cup sliced leeks, white part only; or ½ cup more onions
- ½ cup of olive oil
- A heavy 8-quart kettle or casserole
- 2 to 3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, or 1¼ cups drained canned tomatoes, or ¼ cup tomato paste
- 4 cloves mashed garlic
Cook the onions and leeks slowly in the olive oil for 5 minutes without browning. Stir in the tomatoes and garlic, and cook 5 minutes more.
- 2½ quarts water
- 6 parsley sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ tsp thyme or basil
- 1/8 tsp fennel
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp tumeric
- 2 big pinches of saffron
- A 2-inch piece or ½ tsp dried orange peel
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3 to 4 lbs. fish heads, bones, and trimmings including shellfish remains; or, 1 quart clam juice and 1½ quarts of water, and no salt
- 4 carrots
- 4 celery sticks
- 1 round of fennel
- 1/2 lb squid rounds
Chop carrots, celery, and fennel. Add the water, herbs, seasoning, vegetables, and fish or clam juice to the kettle. Bring to boil, skim, and cook, uncovered, at the slow boil for 30 to 40 minutes. Correct seasoning (you may wish to add salt). Set aside, uncovered, until cool if you are not finishing the bouillabaisse immediately, then refrigerate.
Note: Squid either needs to cook for a short time (<2 minutes) or a long time (30 minutes+). This recipie is set up for the latter.
- The soup base
- 1 lb clams (with shells)
- 1 lb mussels (with shells)
- 1/2 lb halibut
- 1/2 lb salmon
- 1/2 lb firm rockfish, like snapper or cod
- 1/2 lb scallops
- 15 pearl onions
Blanch pearl onions, and peel. Bring base to a boil 20 minutes before serving. Add onions, and firm-fleshed fish (salmon, halibut). Bring quickly back to the boil and boil rapidly, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Then add the tender-fleshed fish (snapper or cod), and the clams, mussels. Bring back to a boil, and boil for 2 minutes. Add the scallops (assuming that you are using small scallops) and boil for 3 minutes. Do not overcook.
- A hot platter
- A soup tureen or soup casserole
- Rounds of toasted French bread
- 1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Immediately lift out the fish and arrange on the platter. Carefully taste soup for seasoning, place 6 to 8 slices of bread in the tureen, and pour in the soup. Spoon a ladleful of soup over the fish, and sprinkle parsley over both fish and soup. Serve immediately.
At the table, each guest is served or helps himself to both fish and soup, placing them in a large soup plate. Eat the bouillabaisse with a large soup spoon and fork, helped along with additional pieces of French bread. If you wish to serve wine, you have a choice of rosé, a strong dry white wine such as Côtes du Rhône or Riesling, or a light, young red such as Beaujolais or domestic Mountain Red.
Read more: Smithsonian Magazine