Bouillabaisse

Classy and quick, the seafood stew of seafood stews.

Bouillabaisse

My mother wasn't a typical Martha Stewart-like homemaker (sorry, mom), but she did have a few tricks up her sleeve and one of them was bouillabaisse (another was making things magical, but we're not going there right now). I grew up in a fish-loving area of Northern California and, even with a limited budget, we were able to get good, super fresh, seafood regularly. Bouillabaisse was one of those dishes that we requested for birthdays, made for special occasions, and always got excited about because it meant "special". As time moved on, we grew up and had more disposable income, which allow for a crab leg here, better fish there, and even an infamous (gasp) lobster tail on one occasion. These variations taught me about the adaptability of bouillabaisse, which I take with me when I prepare it now, adding shellfish and fin fish as available. The version below also includes a dash of Pastis, the anise-flavored liquor favorite from the south of France. Serves 4-6, preferably with crusty french bread or toasted crostini to mop it up.

  • 1 fennel bulb, preferably with fennel fronds
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups fish stock
  • 1.5 cups dry white wine
  • 1 pound rock cod or other firm white fish
  • 1 pound medium to large shrimp (I prefer with the peel)
  • 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 pound fresh clams
  • 2 tablespoon pastis, such as Ricard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • Chopped parsley for garnish

Cut off the stem, feathery tops, and any tough outer stalks from the fennel bulb; coarsely chop the feathery tops to yield about 1/4 cup and set aside. 

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the fennel bulb, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly tender, 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the fish stock and wine and bring to a boil. Add the rock cod, shrimp, and tomatoes and cook, covered, for 3 minutes.

Add the clams and cook, covered, until the cod and shrimp are cooked through and the clams have opened, 3 to 5 minutes.

Stir in the pastis, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the parsley and garnish with fennel fronds before serving.