Bouillabaisse, soups

Much is expected from fish stews, but what makes this version of Bouillabaisse anything but insipid is the combination of Provençale herbs, spices and the touch of Pernod or Pastis (licorice flavored liqueur) in the broth.  A traditional Provençale seafood stew originating from the port of Marseille, Bouillabaisse is a distant relative of the Cioppino and may even be related to our Gumbo.  The present delight in this stew-like soup is the abundance of fish and shellfish in it.  Every catch in the Mediterranean provides distinctive flavors in the sea products due to the saltiness of the waters – which makes for decadent tasting seafood incomparable to any other around the globe.   The rouille in this case is made out of breadcrumbs, cayenne, mashed garlic and olive oil, with a touch of white wine.

Water can be used in some soups, but it’s doubly important that for this piece de resistance good fish stock it utilized.  Just like with any stock, best is homemade.  If perchance, you have a good fish market in your area, they may sell a good seafood stock.  However, ask the fishmonger for some fish heads and tails and he can save them for you.  This soup is such a tour de force that it would be utter sacrilege not to utilize an equally lovely fish broth.



1 LB of raw fish heads, tails and a lobster tail shell

6 cups of water

3 bay leaves

½ TSP of black peppercorns

Stalks of parsley

¼ onion with skin on

Kosher salt – about 1 TSP

Rinse the fish heads and tails and place them in a 6-quart pot with all the other ingredients.  Bring to a boil then a bare simmer for about 30 minutes.  Cool, and strain through a sieve to remove the solids.


2 ½ cups cubed French baguette

3-4 TBSP dry white wine

1/8 TSP cayenne

Pinch of saffron (about 20 threads)

1 roasted red bell pepper

½ TSP Spanish sweet paprika (not smoked)

2 garlic cloves – smashed and rough chopped


½ cup of fish stock

½ TSP Kosher salt

Place the cubed bread inside a food processor and drizzle the 4 TBSP of white wine over the bread and allow it to soak in for about 5 minutes before processing.  Add garlic,1/2 tsp of Spanish paprika, cayenne, saffron, the roasted red bell pepper and blend to a paste.  With the motor running add the fish stock, EVOO and salt.  Process another 2-3 minutes till you have obtained a paste – like a thin porridge.  Scoop out onto a bowl and set aside.


3 TBSP olive oil

½ medium onion – chopped

½ fennel bulb – sliced (reserve some fronds for garnishing)

2 medium sized Yukon gold potatoes – peeled and cut into medium cubes

2 leeks – washed well – white and light green tender parts only – thin sliced

2 large tomatoes – skinned and diced

2 garlic cloves – finely chopped

2 bay leaves

2 TBSP tomato paste

8 oz of mussels, beards trimmed and scrubbed

8 oz of little neck clams, scrubbed

½ LB combination of flaky fish, halibut, black cod (bones removed and skinned) cut into 1” pieces

½ LB combination of seabass, monkfish, red snapper (bones removed and skinned) cut into 1” pieces

Good pinch of saffron threads

¼ cup of Pernod or Pastis (licorice flavored liqueur)

6-7 cups fish stock

1 baguette – sliced and toasted for serving




In a large Dutch oven add the olive oil and sweat the leeks, onion, garlic, fennel and bay leaves for about 5 minutes till translucent.  Add the chopped tomatoes and cook until they start to break down – about 5 minutes.  Add the saffron, tomato paste, Pernod and fish stock.  Incorporate the potatoes, a pinch of red pepper flakes and a generous seasoning of salt and fresh cracked pepper; after it comes to a boil simmer for about 15-20 minutes.   Add the clams and the muscles to the pot and cover to steam till they start to open.  Include the fish pieces and simmer covered until the fish is fully cooked and clams and mussels are have opened fully.   Adjust seasonings as needed.

In the last 5 minutes of the cooking, rub some baguette slices with a clove of raw garlic and drizzle with some EVOO.  Place them on a cookie sheet and under the broiler (about 6″ under the heat) and toast them about 1 minute per side.

Ladle soup onto shallow soup bowls (removing any clams or mussels that remained unopened), dollop a heaping TBSP of the rouille on top, some of the reserved fennel fronds and serve with the toasted bread on the side with some lemon wedges.

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