The Mona Lisa of French Cooking, this classic fish stew was originally prepared with whatever fish were left over after a day’s haul. What the fisherman couldn’t sell at the market they tossed into the pot for Bouillabaisse!
- 3 lbs. mixed fish fillets (include sea robins and conger eels)
- 1 quart fresh clams and/or mussels
- 4 lbs. fish scraps (heads, tails, skin, and bones)
- 4 quarts water
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 4-8 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 onions, sliced thinly
- 1 cup chopped leeks
- 1 cup chopped fennel (bulb, stalk, and leaves)
- 1/2 cup chopped celery
- 4-6 large ripe tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon crushed red hot pepper
- Pinch of saffron
- Peel of one whole orange
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- Sauce Rouille
Combine the water, wine, fish scraps, an orange peel in a large kettle and boil until liquid is reduced by half. Strain the liquid and discard the scraps and orange peel. Return the stock to the kettle and simmer gently.
Heat a large frypan, then add the olive oil. When the oil becomes hot, add the garlic, onions, leeks, fennel and celery; sauté briefly. Core and peel the tomatoes, cut them into chunks and add to the frypan. Cook for about ten minutes, stirring continuously. Remove the frypan from the heat and stir in the red pepper and saffron. Transfer the frypan ingredients to kettle. Prepare a bouquet garni by tying the bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary in a wad of cheesecloth. Drop the bouquet garni into the kettle and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, scrub the shellfish and cut the fillet into chunks. After the stock has cooked for 20 minutes, add the shellfish and fillet along with salt and pepper; simmer for 20 minutes.
When done, remove and discard the bouquet garni. Stir parsley and about a cup of Sauce Rouille into the fish stew. Place two or three slices of toasted French bread into deep bowls and ladle the fish stew over the bread. Serve hot!