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Easy Bouillabaisse Marseillaise

Roland Bello Bouillabaisse

Photo: Roland Bello

Though the real two-course bouillabaisse might be too ambitious for a home cook and would require obscure Mediterranean fish, the following simple version still makes for an awesome Provençale meal. The addition of shrimp is not necessarily authentic but delicious (feel free to add clams, too, if you wish). This recipe will feed a crowd with nothing more needed than a green salad and cheese to follow, plus a lovely bottle of Sancerre or a Provençal rosé.

Serves 8

Ingredients

Bouillon

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 large garlic cloves, smashed with the back of a knife
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 small fennel bulb and 2 tablespoons of the fronds, chopped
  • 2 pounds very ripe plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • One 3-inch strip orange zest, white pith removed
  • 3 pounds heads and frames from non-oily white fish
  • 2 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste, diluted in 3 tablespoons hot water, plus more as needed
  • 2 tablespoons Pastis
  • Large pinch saffron threads, pulverized in a mortar and steeped in 1/4 cup of hot water, plus more as needed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Fish and Potatoes

  • 4 small yellow Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and quartered
  • 2 pounds fish fillets (such as striped or black bass, monkfish, grouper, tilefish, or halibut), cut into 2-inch chunks (use at least two kinds of fish)
  • 2 dozen mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • 12 to 15 large shrimp (optional), shelled and deveined


For Serving

  • Finely chopped parsley
  • 16 slices from a thin baguette, brushed with olive oil and toasted or baked until crisp in a 400° F oven.
  • Rouille

Steps

1. Make the bouillon: In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic, onions and fennel. Cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and orange zest and cook, stirring for another 7 minutes. Add the fish heads and bones and 3 quarts of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Let it boil vigorously for 10 minutes, skimming. Add mussels, tomato paste, Pastis and saffron. Season the liquid with salt and pepper, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered for about 40 minutes. While the bouillon simmers, make the rouille.

2. Strain the liquid into another large pot, pressing on the solids with the back of a spoon. Discard the solids, including the mussels. Place the 3 quarts of liquid over medium-high heat and reduce to about 8 cups, about 22 minutes. Taste the broth: If it doesn't seem strong enough, reduce it further to taste. If it lacks color, add some more saffron and tomato paste diluted in hot water. (The bouillon can be made ahead and reheated before proceeding to the next step.)

3. Place the potatoes in the bouillon and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, partially covered, until almost tender, about 15 minutes.

4. Add the firmer fish, such as monkfish and tilefish and poach for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the rest of the fish, and the mussels. Bring the bouillon back to a simmer and cook until the fish is done and the mussels have opened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the shrimp, if using, and cook until they just turn pink, about 2 minutes; do not overcook. Ladle bouillabaisse into large bowls. Serve, garnished with parsley, and accompanied by croutons and rouille.

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