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Recipe of the Week

Posted by Katie on 2006-03-27 08:43:43
1 forum posts
So yesterday I made bouillabaisse, a wonderful, flavourful french fish soup/stew for the first time. I loved it. It's hearty, healthy and different from something typical Canadians cook on a regular basis.

Here is some background for you:

The most distinguishing characteristic of a bouillabaisse is not the fish, because all fish stews and soups have fish, but the unique flavoring derived from saffron, fennel seeds, and orange zest.

Bouillabaisse is a traditional Provençal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille. Its name comes from the two French words bouillir (to boil), and abaisser (to reduce).

Bouillabaisse is usually a simple fish stock containing different kinds of cooked fish and possibly shellfish. This is complemented with a variety of herbs and spices such as garlic, chillies, bay leaves, fennel and saffron. Classically, fish is salted cod (from which one must remove the salt before preparing the dish), but other kinds of fish may be used. Vegetables such as leeks, onions, tomatoes and celery are boiled together to produce a rich flavour. The exact proportions vary by cook and region.

Now, as I often do, I chose not to make my fish stew from a recipe and instead looked up the common ingredients then winged it. It's so much more fun and organic to cook this way, and for me it stops me from being too much of an intense, recipe following perfectionist. Mistakes are fine and often taste great!

The other thing about this recipe is that it's a great "slow food" dish. It took several steps to prepare but none of the steps are overly difficult and it allowed me to slowly shop, cook and eat a meal, starting in the early afternoon. Very very satisfying.

Here's my version of bouillabaisse, including related costs:

Fish bones - I got two haddock backbones with quite a bit of flesh for about $3)
3 fish fillets - I chose haddock (cheaper, about $3 for one small fillet) and monkfish (about $14 for two very thick fillets)
Shrimp including shells (v. important) - I always have shrimp in the freezer, these ones I got one sale so probably spent about $2 for 4 large handfuls of shrimp
Can of clams, including juice ($2)

1 fennel bulb ($1.69 at my local greengrocer)
3 onions
3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
lemon zest (I didn't have any oranges)
salt and pepper
2 cans whole, peeled tomatoes ($0.99 each)
saffron (expensive at approx. $4 for a little container. But you only use a few strands so I figure I used about $0.50 worth)
bay leaves
hot pepper flakes
white wine ($10 a bottle, but you don't use the whole bottle in the prep.)


Step 1
Peel your shrimp and save the shells . Put your fish bones and the shells from your shrimp into a pot and cover them with water. Bring it to a boil and simmer it while you make the rest of the broth. You may notice a little scum floating to the top, just skim it off with a spoon. This makes your fish stock.

Step 2
Chop your onions, fennel and garlic and sauté in olive oil until tender. Add your saffron (enough strands to cover the tip of your knife.....approx 8-10), bay leaves (I used 3), pepper flakes, lemon zest, salt and pepper and cook for another minute or two. Add your two cans of tomatoes, and break the tomoates up. I actually do that by hand, more fun, but you can use a knife or spoon. Add about 1/4 bottle of white wine (I would choose a dry, crisp white) and let simmer until the flavours come together.

Step 3
Strain your fish stock, and add in the juice from the clams. Add to the tomatoey/saffrony broth. At this point you can stop the cooking process if you want, or jump right into step 4.

Step 4
Cut your fish fillets into bitesize portions. Add to the broth. Let it cook for about 5 minutes, then add the clams and cook for another few minutes. Add the shrimp at the last minute, and turn off the heat. The shrimp will cook through in about a minute from the residual heat in the broth.

Step 5
Enjoy! I also made little garlic crustini to eat with this.....I think it might be traditional to include some kind of aioli but I didn't get into that. Another thing I read is to strain the whole tomato broth mixture so that you have the flavour of the vegetables but not the vegetables themselves. I am against this as I prefer a more "peasanty" feeling than the really high end approach, but if you want to feel free!

In all, I think this meal cost $35. It's a bit difficult to estimate the cost of items I always have in the house. But believe me, you can feed A LOT of people with it. Miguel and I probably have enough to eat this for at least two more meals. The next time I make it I may wait till we are having people over to take full advantage.
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