Basically Bourdain's Bourride

You say Bouillabaisse, I say Bourride. A fish stew by whatever name is delicious.

Some say Bouillabaisse cannot exist outside of Provence, where you can get the traditional 7 fish varieties served by boat captains and restaurants in Marseille, the port city which is its birthplace. The Bouillabaisse Charter states “the recipe for bouillabaisse should include at least four of the following types of fish: rascasse (rockfish or scorpion fish),araignée (weever or spider crab), galinette/rouget grondin (red mullet), fielas/congre (conger eel) and chapon/scorpène (red scorpion fish).” While I understand the impulse to preserve typicity and locale and tradition, I’m not going to travel there in the near future. And I want some fish stew, darnit!

So there are plenty of classic recipes for this classic dish. Mark Bittman, who taught us all how to Cook Everything 20 years on, of course has his say on the topic: “You think about Bouillabaisse, you think about ‘What’s around that I can turn into a fish stew?’” His version is here.

What would this article be without a reference to the Godmother of American cooking? Yes, Julia had her version. (Seems like I refer to her a lot. Guess there’s a reason for that.) Her entry is “Bouillabaisse a la Marseillaise”. Watch the video. It’s Saturday. Here is her version with an added Rouille from the American Chefs Federation: an aioli of red bell pepper, lemon juice, and garlic that absolutely puts this over the top. But more about this in a minute.

An intriguing read was by James Peterson, the 7 times James Beard award winner. Having conquered food, he started the Brooklyn Perfume Company in 2011. But I digress. As I started to read “Glorious French Food”, which became a guide for me, he enlightened me to a variation called Bourride. It enriches the broth by adding the aforementioned red pepper aioli. And, since it’s Saturday, you may browse through his blog, a rabbit’s hole of cooking knowledge. His article explaining the subtleties of this dish is here.

I careened off into the enfant terrible of American cuisine, Anthony Bourdain. In Season 6 Episode 2 of Parts Unknown, he and his partner in crime, Eric Ripert, indulged in chef Gerald Passedat's famous bouillabaisse. (Eric is the mastermind behind Le Bernardin, awarded 3 Michelin stars and 4 stars from the New York Times.) When talking about rouille and Bourride, Bourdain called the aioli “the magical condiment”.

So Bourride it is.

As usual, I sort of mash things up given the availability of certain seafood and my individual palate. Considering all this research, this was definitely an all-day affair for me: several long breaks in between steps, but so worth it.



For the rouille

1 large red pepper, seeded and roasted

2 egg yolks

small pinch of saffron

a cup extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

For the bourride

Copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil

5 very large garlic cloves, minced

1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

1 large Spanish onion, diced

1 carrot, diced

3 stalks celery, diced

1 small fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1 large red bliss potato, peeled and diced

1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes w/ juice

1 tsp saffron soaked in 2 tbsp hot water

1 bag (2 lb.) mussels, rinsed well

1 bag (2 lb.) little neck clams, rinsed well

6 (13-15) shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 lb. monkfish, cut into large chunks

1 (1 1/2 lb.) lobster

1 quart fish stock

2 small (6 oz.) bottles clam juice

1/2 cup white wine

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme plus 4 sprigs

3 bay leaves

2 tsp pimenton (smoked paprika)

1 large stem of basil

salt and pepper to taste


For the rouille

In a food processor, add the chopped, seeded, roasted red pepper and the egg yolks. Blitz for a few seconds and then add the saffron and start to pour the olive oil very slowly into the mixture while processing. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the bouillabaisse

In a large Dutch oven, completely cover the bottom with evoo with heat on medium.

Sauté the onion, leek, fennel, celery, carrot, potatoes, and garlic for 10 minutes, not allowing anything to brown, only soften.

Add the 4 sprigs of thyme, the basil, the bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste.

Add the tomatoes with juice, the fish stock, and clam juice.

Bring to a boil, reduce immediately to a simmer, then stir well.

Place half the mussels in a separate pot with 2 cups of the broth. Cover and steam until they open. Using a slotted spoon, remove and reserve the mussels.

Place the lobster in the same pot. Steam for 5 minutes in the broth.

Remove the lobster to a baking dish to cool. Pour liquid back into the main pot.

While the lobster is cooling, remove the mussel meat from the shells, pouring the liquid into the main pot, and discard the shells. Reserve the mussel meats.

Shell the lobster and cut into large chunks. Reserve the meat and add any accumulated juices to the pot.

Add the wine and saffron with water into the stew.

Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add 1/4 cup evoo, increase heat to a slow boil.

Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Reduce heat to low and gently simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove from heat and blend to smooth with a stick blender.

Add the monkfish, stir to combine, cook for 3 minutes.

Add the clams, simmer for several minutes, then add the mussels.

After a few minutes, when the clams and mussels have opened, add the lobster, shrimp, and shelled mussels.

Stir gently to warm everything through.

Stir in half the rouille to flavor. Reserve the rest to spread on oven toasted bread with olive oil.

Serve with a garnish of fennel fronds.

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