This Bouillabaisse a noble dish is–
A sort of soup, or broth, or brew,
Or hotchpotch of all sorts of fishes,
That Greenwich never could outdo;
(Lines from: The Ballad of Bouillabaisse by William Makepeace Thackery)
Our 2nd annual New Year’s bouillabaisse party was a success. Last year we introduced you to our recipe and posted it here. This year we prepped ahead and ordered most of the seafood a week ago and picked it up fresh from Byerly’s on New Year’s morning at 8am. I didn’t have walleye this year (too bad), so instead we substituted a white fish that I’ve recently noticed at the market called swai. I was curious about this fish so I did a little investigating.
What is swai? It’s a very mild, flaky, inexpensive white fish eaten throughout Southeast Asia. The texture of the meat and the skin of the fish is like a catfish, and
thus it’s often called an Asian catfish, but it’s not. It’s usually sold in long fillets that can be broiled, baked or breaded. Ask your butcher or read the label on the package to confirm the origin. It should say “Vietnam or Mekong Delta” vs “Mississippi Delta.” If you Google “What is swai,” you’ll see plenty of posts that describe this white fish.
All in all it was fine to include swai, but next time I think I might try some fresh flounder instead. Experimenting is part of the fun. The other changes I brought to this year’s recipe were fresh shrimp, fresh snow crab and fresh cod. Instead of using frozen, I wanted to see how this might change the character of the bouillabaisse. I was pleased with the results.
I was pleased because the fresh fish cooked better and looked terrific. We invited 2 friends over to enjoy the meal with us. We began prepping the base 3 hours before the guests arrived and then as they came through the door, we were ready to begin the process of adding the fish. Part of the process is to add the shrimp, white fish and shell fish in separate groups bringing the broth up to a slow boil and back to a simmer each time. So the guests can hang out with you in the kitchen and watch the magic happen. Once the seafood starts going in, it takes less than 30 minutes to complete the process. The bread can bake and the bouillabaisse can simmer until everyone is ready to sit down. Did you try a new recipe over the long New Year’s weekend or have a suggestion we could try for the next batch of this delicious fish soup? Please comment as we’d love to hear!