Bouillabaisse: easy seafood stew with red pepper spread
I met Mona in seventh grade after we moved to Connecticut. Her French Canadian family was from northern Maine, her parents spoke French at home, and she had a gorgeous bunch of brothers and sisters, any of whom could have modeled for Calvin Klein. The girls shared a closet, so their classic Bloomingdales clothes meant that Mona always looked incredibly put together. I wanted all of it: the big happy family, the glamorous sisters to borrow clothes from, the exotic-to-me meals of baked macaroni and cheese casserole (with real Gruyere cheese) and bouillabaisse. I spent as much time as I could at their house.
Fast forward to this past Christmas, when I decided to try making bouillabaisse for dinner with friends. We frequently have local fish in our freezer, so I thought it would be fun to try. Bouillabaisse (bool-yah-BASE) is a seafood stew hailing from Provence, typically made with a variety of local seafood. (I suspect it was developed by fishmongers to use up all the bits and pieces of fish and seafood they hadn’t sold at the end of the day.) I searched online for starter recipes, and decided to start with Emeril Lagasse. We have several neighbors who fish, so I thought it would be easy to get some fish heads or bones from them to make the stock, then add local fish and some frozen seafood.
Instead of receiving fish bones or fish heads, I ended up wrestling with a whole 15-pound partially frozen skipjack, a local tuna relative with incredibly tough skin and razor sharp fins. It did not go well; I felt badly for ruining a beautiful fish to make stock. Making the stock was a full day process; the next day was bouillabaisse day and our dinner guests. And then our dinner guests cancelled… leaving me with a huge pot of bouillabaisse for just two of us to eat. I made bouillabaisse deliveries around the neighborhood that night: my first stop the house of the skipjack provider.
I vowed to make it again, but simpler! So I started with organic vegetable stock from the store, thickened with blended roasted bell peppers and tomatoes, streamlined the recipe, and made it affordable by using just two kinds of frozen seafood. Note that you can use any fish (although I wouldn’t recommend super-fatty fish for this) and any seafood that’s in your budget. Make the broth a day ahead, then heat and cook the seafood just before dinner. Your guests will be super impressed!
My favorite part is the rouille (pronounced roo-EE), a roasted red pepper spread that goes on crusty baguette slices, then dipped into the soup. Bouillabaisse is traditionally served over slices of baguette, with fiery-flavored rouille as a garnish. This version is mild, not spicy, and incredibly rich and flavorful.
I found frozen gluten-free baguettes at Whole Foods (they include mozzarella as an ingredient), which were delightful as a treat with this dish.
Adapted from a recipe by Emeril Lagasse.
paleo, Whole30-compliant, migraine, and low-sodium (without the rouille and bread), gluten-free, celiac diets
Not recommended for:
vegan, vegetarian diets