I have to confess that there are certain recipes that intimidate me just by virtue of their name – paella, cassoulet, and bouillabaisse – to name a few. I know that they are all peasant in origin, and being a self-proclaimed peasant cook this seems a bit of an anachronism but everyone has their foibles. It might be the long list of ingredients or the fact that the ingredients change depending on the recipe (and they all claim to be authentic). No matter the excuse, it took my mother whipping it up from her pantry to break my spell of immobility with bouillabaisse.
It turns out my mom is even less of a follower of recipes than I am (she never waits for the oven to preheat, and yet her cooking is always fantastic!) She announced the other morning that she was making bouillabaisse and began gathering ingredients from the refrigerator and pantry. I was astounded by her nonchalance but came home to a gorgeous soup, truly made from the pantry and freezer. Although she admitted that it really should have had fennel and saffron in it, her audacity reminded me that all food fears disappear as quickly as you chase them away.
Traditionally Bouillabaisse is served by placing toast dabbed with rouille in a soup bowl and ladling the soup over it, which usually contains a variety of shellfish along with various white fleshed fish. While this recipe may not measure up to a Marsellaisse cook’s version, it certainly was delicious!
Bouillabaisse – Pantry Style
1 1/2 lb firm flesh white fish (halibut, cod)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
10 large cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
2 bottles clam juice (8 oz)
15 oz can of clams, juice drained and reserved
32 oz chicken stock
2 tablespoons dill
2 bay leaves
* Saffron and fennel seeds
Rouille (add a pinch of saffron threads to turn Aioli into Rouille) (optional)
Brown fish pieces in olive oil in large dutch oven or similar size pot, 5-7 minutes, turning once. Remove from pan and reserve. Add onion and garlic to pot and cook 2-3 minutes until soft. Add carrots and celery and stir well and cook another 3 minutes. Add chicken stock, clam juice from bottles and reserved juice from drained clams, bay leaves and dill and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Add fish back to pot, clams and peas and turn off heat. Add salt and pepper to taste.
* Grind a pinch of saffron and 1 teaspoon fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle. Add to chicken stock when adding to pot.