Saffron Seafood Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse is France’s classic Mediterranean fisherman’s stew. Fresh local fish and shellfish in a sublime sauce of orange peel, saffron, and fennel. It’s the perfect way to enjoy seafood. Peel the shrimp, reserving the shrimp shells.

SERVES PREPARATION COOK TIME
SKILL LEVEL
2-3 20 minutes40 minutesEASY

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup each chopped onion and leek
  • 4 cloves smashed garlic
  • 2 or 3 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped or 2 cups canned
  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • Fresh herb sprigs: thyme, parsley, fennel fronds and basil (in any combination)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 3 – 4 pounds fish heads, bones, trimmings, shrimp shells
  • 1 pound each: peeled shrimp (use the shells for the stock); wild cod, halibut or other flaky white fish, cut into large chunks; debearded, scrubbed mussels or clams
  • Crusty bread, sliced
  • Rouille:
  • 1 roasted and peeled red bell pepper
  • 1 roasted hot red chile pepper or ground cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small peeled garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs or finely chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • Fine sea salt, about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

INSTRUCTIONS

For the soup:

  1. Heat the oil in a tall pot (I use an 8 quart stockpot) over medium heat; add the onion and leek and cook gently until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, water, herbs, saffron, salt and fish bones and shrimp shells. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat so that the broth bubbles slowly without boiling.
  2. Cook 30 minutes, then strain the broth into a large bowl or another pot and discard the solids.
  3. Pour the broth back into the stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, a minute or two. Add the rest of the fish and shellfish, cover and simmer until the mussels or clams open (this will just take a few minutes).
  4. Taste the soup and add more salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.

Make the rouille:

  1. Puree everything except for the olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while processing to form a paste.
  2. Toast the bread and brush with olive oil.
  3. Serve the soup with bread and rouille.

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