Every year on Christmas Eve, we invite friends over to share a holiday dinner. This year the biggest hit was the first course, the bouillabaisse! The choice of bouillabaisse was a last minute decision and am I glad I made it! It’s not a hard soup to make but you need to prepare for it. You need to go to the market to get fresh fish and seafood and spend quite some time chopping veggies and herbs. All worth it, though! I got the basics from the recipe that Emeril Lagasse posted on the foodnetwork but made some substitutions. I hope you get a chance to make this wonderful soup and enjoy it with your friends and family. I’m trying to keep the recipe as short and easy to follow as possible.
First, make the broth. You can prepare the broth ahead of time, which is great because that’s the most time consuming part of this recipe. When you are ready to serve, you reheat the broth, if needed, and start cooking the fish and seafood.
Ingredients for the broth
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped
- salt and pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 8 peppercorns
- 2 sprigs thyme
- fish stock (about 3 cups)
- 1 cup white wine
Ingredients for the final step of soup
- the prepared broth
- a pinch of Saffron
- 1 cup leeks, julienned or chopped
- 3 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
- the juice and zest of one orange
- 1 cup fennel, julienned or chopped
- 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 1 pound cod fish (no bone), cut in pieces
- 1 pound flounder or other white fish, cut in pieces
- 2 pounds mussels
- 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- salt and pepper to taste
How to make the broth: In a big pot with heavy bottom, heat the olive oil. Saute the onions and celery for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and pepper and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the bay leaves, coarsely crushed peppercorns (or whole if you prefer), and thyme. Add the wine and enough fish stock to cover everything generously. I added about 3 cups but I don’t think it matters to be precise here. If you don’t have enough liquid you can add more fish stock or water later or in the final step. I didn’t want to have too much liquid because I served the soup as an appetizer in small French onion soup bowls filled with about half a ladleful of soup. Cook the broth for about 30 minutes. Lagasse strains the broth to only keep the clear liquid. I didn’t. I wanted to keep all the chopped veggies in to give more texture to the soup and keep it more “rustic”. Your choice to keep the veggies in or strain them.
How to make the final step: If you prepared the broth earlier and it’s cold now, be sure to reheat it. Add the saffron, leeks, tomatoes, orange juice, orange zest, fennel, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add the white fish and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the shrimps and the mussels and cook for another 6 minutes or until the shells are open. Throw out and shells that didn’t open. Taste the broth, add any more salt or pepper if needed and serve.
Notes and tips.
To prepare the mussels: Be sure to let the mussels stand in a big bowl of cold water for at least an hour to expel any sand that they may still hold. When you are ready for the soup, rinse them well and add them to the broth.
To prepare the bread: A simple thing to do with the bread is to slice a French baguette, drizzle a few drops of olive oil on each slice, and cook them in medium hot oven for about ten minutes.
- The bouillabaisse soup is served with rouille, a spread you make for the crostini or other bread that you serve with the soup but I omitted that. I served just the soup with bread. If you want to make the rouille use a blender to combine 1 red pepper, roasted and peeled, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 piece of white bread torn into piece, 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, the juice of one lemon, salt and pepper. When the ingredients are combined, add gradually 1/2 cup olive oil.
- Traditionally, you remove the fish and seafood from the broth and serve them separately: one bowl with the broth, bread with the rouille spread and a central plate with the fish and seafood. This arrangement is too complicated and doesn’t work for me. I used a spoon to pick fish and seafood to put in each individual bowl and then ladle broth on top.
- You can add both mussels and clams to your soup. I made a last minute decision not to use clams because I wasn’t sure they would open at the same time as the mussels.