Since we live in one of the great ocean fishing areas of the country, the temptation to eat the freshest seafood imaginable is an almost daily event. The fishing boats go out early from Montauk and their catch is in our fish markets later that morning. The waters abound in striped and black seabass, flounder, jumbo porgies, fluke, cod, monkfish, swordfish and bluefish. This past weekend, local monkfish, the white dense fish with a taste vaguely similar to lobster, was to be had for $9.99 lb. I call that price irresistible. And it immediately brought to mind a great Bouillabaise I once enjoyed in Provence, north of Marseilles. Bouillabaisse can be incredibly complicated to make: First of all, you need a great stock as a base for your creation. No self-respecting cook would dare serve the dish without a “Rouille”, that overwhelmingly garlic-y saffron tinged sauce. essential to the dish. And then there’s the fish itself. Any self-respecting Provencale cook could find the requisite fish—rascasse, rouget, congre and lotte. The only one readily available is the lotte which is monkfish in French. Still I was determined to use the underpinnings of the dish to make a Bouillabaisse. But I wanted one that would not restrict me to the kitchen for the bulk of the day. To the rescue came none other than The French Chef herself: Julia Child.
Now this is not my first post about Bouillabaisse. Several years ago, I wrote a much more complicated version of the dish. You can see for yourselves at https://chewingthefat.us.com/2010/03/bouillabaisse-with-garlic-aioli-and.html. At its heart, Julia reminded us, Bouillabaisse is just a simple Provencale fish stew. Look in Larousse Gastronomique. The dish was first cooked by fishermenthemselves on the beaches near Marseilles over a wood fire. The fishermen added the least marketable of their catch to an aromatic cooking broth and served it over a piece of bread. Interestingly, the word “Bouillabaisse” refers to the method of cooking rather than an actual recipe. “Bouiller” (to boil) is combined with “Abaisser” to reduce. Once you simplify down to that, I felt emboldened to make a simple and quicker version of the dish. I also reasoned that since most of the classic Mediterranean fishes associated with the dish don’t swim off Long Island, my Bouillabaisse was never going to authentically Marseillais. So I poked around and came up with a recipe that was greeted with great oohs and ahhs from our dinner party guests. At the risk of sounding exactly like my mother, for whom no cut was too short, I oohed and ahhed too. But mine were based on the fact that I did not spend a day making the dish.
Recipe for Lazy Man’s Bouillabaisse with Lulu Peyraud’s Quick Rouille: Serves 6. Takes 1 ½ hrs. to make in two sessions of 1 hour and ½ hour.
For the broth:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
8 shallots, coarsely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, cloves peeled and coarsely chopped
3 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped or 1 -16 Oz can of diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups Fish Stock
32 oz. Chicken Stock
4 thyme sprigs
4 parsley sprigs
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
First, make the broth.
In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add the fish and chicken stocks, the thyme, parsley and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat for 45 minutes.
Strain the broth and discard the solids. You should have 6 cups of broth. If not, add either water or chicken stock. Season the broth with salt and pepper.
Now make the Rouille:
For the Rouille
1 pinch saffron threads
2 tbsp. fish stock
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 cup Mayonnaise
1⁄2 tsp. sweet paprika
Crumble saffron threads in stock in a food processor or mortar. Add garlic and purée, or grind with a pestle, until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in mayonnaise, paprika, and cayenne. Season to taste with salt. Refrigerate until serving. (Rouille is best used the same day, although I used it on leftover Bouillabaisse two days later and loved it.
30 Minutes before serving…put the Bouillabaisse together:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium fennel bulb, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 large tomato—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice or 1 16 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 lb 21-28 count shrimp, shelled and deveined and defrosted if frozen
2 ½ pounds monkfish fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons chopped basil
8 thin slices of baguette, brushed with olive oil and toasted
Lemon wedges, for serving