August 2, 2012

Bouillabaisse - Provençal Fish Soup

It's summer! Time to use all good things we get from nature; like fruits and vegetables, and the great variety of available fish.
After a day spent outdoors or on the beach, could there be a more refreshing dish to go for than a fish stew?!
There are many ways to cook fish stew and many recipes, but the most famous is Bouillabaisse, a dish from Southern France.


It is said that fish stew originated in ancient Greece, created by the fishers of Marseille (at that time Massalia) as a way to use all unsold fish. This is one of those dishes where every family has its own secret ingredient and method of preparing. Roman mythology mentions it too.
It consists of fish soup that is served with garlicky bread croutons and fish served independently with cooked potatoes. The broth must come to a boil (bouillir), then, each time it does, the heat must be lowered (abaissé). The different types of fish are added one by one depending on their individual cooking time.

On this side of the Atlantic, Bouillabaisse will never be like the one you taste in authentic locations on South France. The key ingredient is Mediterranean fish and a big variety of it. But you can try to recreate its distinctive taste at home with fish available at your local fish markets.
My bouillabaisse was good, but I must admit, still far from the one I tasted on  The French Riviera last summer.



I have looked into many cookbooks and magazines before I decided to follow "Larousse Gastronomique" and "La Cuisine Authentique de nos Grands-meres".  One of my big disappointments was Saveur Cooks "Authentic French" cookbook, that used store bought mayonnaise as the main ingredient in "rouille"-sauce traditionally served with Bouillabaisse. So don't get fooled by titles of cookbooks, authentic doesn't always means that! 

In my bouillabaisse, I used;

Marseille bouillabaisse

1.5 kg mixed whole fish (sea bream, monk fish, scorpion fish etc)
3 peeled potatoes
1/4 tsp red paprika (pimento)
1 kg of rock fish
3 onions chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 peeled and chopped tomatoes
1 tbs saffron
2 tbsp olive oil
10 tbsp of dry white wine
salt, pepper

Croutons: chopped dry french bread, crushed garlic, olive oil mixed in a bowl

Rouille sauce 1: 1 egg yolk, 1 tsp saffron, 10 tsp olive oil, 3 crushed garlic cloves, salt, pepper

In a pot, cook onions and garlic on little bit of olive oil for five minutes and add red paprika. Add tomatoes and white wine. Add rock fish, saffron, salt, pepper. Pour in a water to cover fish and cook for about 40 minutes. Mash cooked vegetables from a stew and return to the pot. Take out a little bit of a stock to small dish aside. Add potatoes into the pot and cook for another 20 minutes. Add another whole fish and cook 10 minutes more so the fish stay firm.
Pour the soup out, over the bowl with croutons and serve cooked fish in another bowl with a sauce aside.

Rauille sauce could be made similarly to aioli with egg yolk and olive oil. Garlic, saffron and red paprika are crushed earlier and added to the sauce. Other way of preparing it is with cooked potato, instead of an egg yolk and crushed hot dry paprika like in Gerard Depardieu's cookbook





Sardine bouillabaisse

1 onion
1 leek
1 tomato
2 garlic cloves
1 bay leaf
1 fennel stick
dried orange peel
0.75 l water
pinch of salt, pepper
1/4 tsp saffron
6 potatoes

2 kg of fresh sardines
chopped parsley
stale French bread

In a deep pan cook chopped leek, onion and peeled tomato, fennel stick and bay leaf in olive oil for ten minutes. Add orange peel and water, salt ,pepper and saffron. Cover with sliced potatoes. Close and cook for about twenty minutes. 
Clean sardines and take out scales. Dry. Lay sardines on the top of potatoes and cook for about five minutes more.
Pour the liquid on a sliced prepared bread and take out a fish and potatoes in another dish. Serve with chopped parsley.




Salt cod bouillabaisse

1 1/2 lb salted cod-bacala desalted
100 g chopped onions
50 g chopped leeks
2 peeled, chopped tomatoes
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 cup white vine
0.5 l water or fish stock
pinch of saffron
chopped parsley

potatoes
stale pieces of french bread

Prepare bacala (salted cod) like in my previous post - change fresh cold water for couple of days in a pot with a fish. Use it when you're sure that is not too salty anymore. Cut cod in pieces.
In a deep pot cook onions, garlic and leeks on olive oil until soft. Add tomatoes and cook little bit more. Add cod and cover with wine and fish stock and add saffron. At this point you can add potatoes in and cook until soft.
Serve separately soup and fish with chopped parsley.

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