There are many websites and people out there offering a traditional Marseille bouillabaisse recipe… and yet every single one of them is different. It’s not surprising or problematic for that matter: there are as many bouillabaisse recipes as there are cooks in Marseille, and each one has its merits and its traditional touches.
That being said, any cook inexperienced with the traditional fish stew of southern France needs a place to start. Bouillabaisse is a specialty of Marseille, though you’ll find it on menus throughout the south of France. It traditionally contains a variety of fish including rascasse, sea robin and hake, as well as different seafood. The stew is served with rouille, French for rust, on the side — the traditional sauce is reminiscent of mayonnaise, though the orange color that comes from the addition of saffron and pepper is what makes it stand out and gives it its name.
Once you’ve learned one version of the traditional dish, feel free to adapt is however you like!
Ingredients for the bouillabaisse:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
4 shallots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup Pernod
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 small can whole tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 pinch saffron
1 cup store bought or homemade fish stock
1/2 pound potatoes, quartered
4 pounds of a variety of fish and seafood, like mussels, scallops, shrimp, squid or cod (be sure to choose sustainable fish!)
Ingredients for the rouille:
1 pinch saffron
2 cloves garlic
1 roasted red pepper
1 piece white bread
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Heat the olive oil over low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add the onions and fennel, and cook until translucent and tender. Add the shallots and garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add the Pernod and wine. Bring to a simmer, then add the tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them to the pot, and the juice from the can.
Add the bay leaf, saffron and potatoes to the pot. Cover with the fish stock and cook for 10 minutes at a simmer.
Add the prepared seafood to the pot, except for shrimp and scallops, if using, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Add scallops and shrimp at this point and cover.
Remove 2 tablespoons of the broth from the pot and add it to a blender. Add the saffron, the garlic cloves and the pepper. Tear the bread into the blender and pulse to combine. Drizzle in half of the olive oil, pulsing to blend. Add the egg yolk and drizzle in the remaining olive oil, pulsing all the while. Season to taste with salt.
Place a toasted baguette slice in the bottom of each soup bowl. Stir the bouillabaisse and serve over the top of the baguette slices. Serve with rouille and additional toasted bread slices on the side.
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