“You can make as dramatic a production as you want out of a bouillabaisse, but remember it originated as a simple, Mediterranean fisherman’s soup, made from the day’s catch or its unsalable leftovers, and flavored with the typical condiments of the region—olive oil, garlic, leeks or onions, tomatoes, and herbs.” (Julia Child et al., Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
Bouillabaisse is a summer soup, reminiscent of balmy breezes and the scent of seawater in the air. Unlike thick, cream-based soups, or chunky meat and vegetable soups, this bouillabaisse—with hints of citrus and saffron, and studded with fresh, briny seafood—energizes, and in fact finds itself rather at home on a hot, sunny day.
1 cod fillet
handful cooked mussel meat (or raw mussels in the shell)
handful uncooked shrimp
(OR fish and seafood of your choice)
900g (2 lbs) tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large garlic cloves
1 fennel bulb
4-5 stalks celery
1 cup dry white wine
1 cube vegetable or fish bouillon
1 cup water
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 teaspoon dried tarragon
large pinch of saffron
1 bay leaf
half an orange rind, with as little pith as possible
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
If you’re using frozen fish and seafood, allow it to thaw. Peel the garlic and shallots, and wash the fennel, celery, and tomatoes. Chop the tomatoes and set aside. Thinly slice the garlic, shallots, fennel, and celery.
Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add the sliced veg. Sauté until they start to soften, then add the wine and bring to a boil. Crumble in the bouillon and add the water. Give it a stir, then add the thyme, tarragon, saffron, bay leaf, and orange rind. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for ten minutes.
Add the fish and shrimp and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir it a bit to begin breaking up the cod fillet as it cooks. Add the mussels and tomatoes, cover, and simmer for ten more minutes. Remove from heat when fish and shrimp are opaque and cooked through (and mussel shells open, if using whole ones; discard any that didn’t open). Stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Remove the bay leaf and orange rind. Serve with a crusty baguette.