Around the board they take their places,
And share the wine and Bouillabaisse.
(Line from: The Ballad of Bouillabaisse by William Makepeace Thackery)
Lisa and I started the new year trying a new dish. We wanted to try Bouillabaisse since having some at Salùt at 50th & France in Edina. Bouillabaisse is fish stew or soup, its history rooted in Mediterranean cultures and popularized in Marseille, France. We combined several recipes together and created our own Minnesota influenced version.
Along the way we learned some interesting tidbits. For example, for New Year’s, Byerly’s (a local, high-end grocery store) sells more seafood than the total previous 4 months leading up to the holiday [according to Matt, the Byerly’s butcher in Burnsville]. While the rest of the store was deserted, the only line was at the seafood counter at 4pm in the afternoon. We had no idea that seafood was such a popular item for New Year’s parties. We had noticed quite a crowd at the Costco seafood bar last Thursday, but we just thought it was because they were giving away cheese and bread treats nearby. When we went to Target on Saturday, they had their seafood bar set up by the front door. Apparently retailers know seafood is a big seller for this holiday. Does anyone know if this is an old or recent tradition, or just a fluke?
We weren’t trying to follow a trend when we started our bouillabaisse adventure, but learning new stuff along the way is always a fun part of trying something new. There is some considerable prep time to do this dish right. Our extra time off over the weekend prompted us to give it a try. It helped to have two of us working on it simultaneously. If you have friends who like seafood and fresh fish, then you could prep the broth and have folks bring over a half or full pound of fresh fish to add upon arrival. The secret to the dish is in the herbs and vegetables that go into the broth which is brought up to boiling and then down to simmer several times as each fish, shrimp and shellfish is added. The meat cooks rather quickly; it’s the broth that takes work. Traditionalists require 3-5 types of whitefish.
Here’s our Minnesota influenced version:
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 cup each chopped onion, leek and shallots
- 4 cloves mashed garlic
- 2 or 3 large, ripe tomatoes
- 12 cups fish broth (purchase or make your own)
- Fresh herb sprigs: 3 thyme, 1/4 C chopped parsley, 2 fennel fronds
- 1/2 sliced fennel bulb (more if desired)
- 1 chopped sweet red bell pepper
- 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 1 pinch saffron
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 whole cloves
- zest of half an orange (squeeze orange juice into broth)
- 2 T lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 3 pounds white fish cut into chunks (tilapia, walleye, cod)
- 1 1/2 pounds peeled, deveined shrimp
- 1/2 pound mussels
- 1 pound clams (shellfish must be debearded, scrubbed)
- 1 1/2 pounds snow crab legs
- 2/3 C white cooking wine
- Baked, crusty multi grain bread
- Rouille sauce (recipe below)
Heat the oil in a tall stock pot over medium heat; add the onion, leeks, shallots and fennel. Cook gently until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, red pepper, celery, herbs, cloves, orange zest, lemon juice, cooking wine and salt. Cook until the onions are golden (not brown). Add in broth and bring to a simmer. Then reduce heat so that the broth bubbles slowly without boiling. Cook 30 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, a minute or two. Add the rest of the fish, shellfish and snow crab, cover and simmer until the mussels or clams open. Taste the soup and add more seasoning as needed. Add your pinch of saffron after the fish. Serve the bouillabaisse with toasted bread and rouille on the side. The rouille is spread on your baked, crusty bread and either dipped into the broth or placed directly into the soup bowl.
- 1 roasted red bell pepper
- 1 roasted hot red chile pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 small peeled garlic clove
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (about 2 slices of bread)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
- Fine sea salt, about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Puree everything except for the olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while processing to form a paste.