Traditional bouillabaisse (pronounced boo-ya-base) is a hearty soup or stew made by simmering several kinds of local fresh fish and shellfish in a tomato-base broth along with a selection of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices. It is an uncomplicated, one-pot meal that will warm you up on a cold, wintry night as you listen to the claps of thunder following the bright flashes of lightning and hear the hail drumming on your roof.
To make bouillabaisse, start with the freshest fish and shellfish available from your local market. If you haven’t yet made a habit of Race Street Fish & Poultry Market in San Jose, making bouillabaisse is the perfect reason to check it out. Race Street Fish Market has been the place to buy fresh seafood and poultry in Santa Clara County since 1947.
When choosing seafood for your bouillabaisse, choose at least two different types of firmly-textured fish and two types of shellfish. There is a wide variety of local Bay Area seafood that would work well in this dish. Something else to keep in mind when selecting seafood is sustainability. Choose fish and shellfish that are abundant and caught in environmentally-friendly ways rather than seafood that has been over-fished to the point of endangerment. Some “best choices” now for this bouillabaisse are Pacific cod and halibut, black rockfish or sablefish, pink shrimp from Oregon, spiny lobster and Dungeness crab. Click here for the January 2010 printable West Coast Sustainable Seafood Pocket Guide from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Periodically check back to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s site for the most updated sustainable seafood guides.
Bay Area Bouillabaisse (serves 4 main course servings)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 leek, white part only, chopped fine
- 1 fresh fennel bulb, finely chopped including the feathery green tops
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
- 1 & 1/2 cups tomatoes, (seeds squeezed out and discarded) chopped
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups fish stock or broth (1 32-oz box)
- 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel
- 1 – 2 pinches saffron (turmeric may be substituted for this)
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 pound cod or halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 pound rockfish or sablefish, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/2 pound of pink shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 pound cooked lobster or crab meat
- good handful of Italian parsley, chopped
Heat olive oil in large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped leek and fennel, stir and cook until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and cook for another minute, stirring. Add the chopped tomatoes, wine, fish stock, orange peel, saffron, thyme, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the fish pieces and shellfish, cover the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the thyme stems, ladle into large bowls and sprinkle a little chopped parsley over each bowl. Serve with lots of crusty bread to mop up the broth.
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