Day 353. Bragging Rights

Ask anyone who knows me. They’ll tell you I’m not someone who often blows her own horn. But guess what? I am today. Unashamedly so, too. It all started bouillabaissewith Tuesday’s WordPress Daily Prompt: “If a restaurant were to name something after you, what would it be? Describe it. (Bonus points if you give us a recipe!)”

Hands down it would be my bouillabaisse.

In case you’re not familiar with what it is, bouillabaisse is a traditional Provencal fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille. It’s made with fish and seafood and it’s ‘cooked’ in a broth. The Italians have a version called cioppino. And I’ll bet there are those who would say that a creole seafood gumbo is another variation.

What I make is is the French version. It’s my own recipe. I concocted it. But the ingredients are pretty

standard. And if I do say so, myself, it is OUTSTANDING.

Feel free not to take my word for it. I’m happy to give you a list of friends who’ve had it. And rave each and every time. In fact, I made it for a colleague, his wife and inlaws once.

His mother in law is from Marseille; and she told me mine was better than any she’d had at home. What more proof do you need?

I take my time with it. There’s a lot of prep. But it is SO worth it. To smell it cooking is an absolutely heady experience. The shopping is also pure pleasure. I love each and every step. Particularly the eating, though.

Just imagine a really large bowl, filled to the brim with a glorious array of fresh fish and seafood. Served in a delicious broth, tasting of garlic and wine and other goodies. Of course you need some gorgeous crusty bread for dunking; and let’s not forget the wine for drinking. I always add a green salad after the meal and something sweet for dessert. Anything chocolate is perfect.

You want my recipe now, don’t you? I’d be happy to share it, but I don’t have one. Because I made it up as I went along the first time, I’ve never written a recipe up. At least in terms of ‘measurements’. So as to how much of anything, experiment; and use your judgement and common sense. I am happy to give you the ingredients, though. And take you through the steps I follow.

FOR THE BROTH, which I like to make the day before so all the flavours have a chance to co-mingle:

  • olive oil
  • knife-chopped garlic
  • coarsely chopped onion
  • thinly sliced celery
  • thinly sliced carrots
  • thinly sliced fennel
  • tomatoes, plum preferably and fresh, cut in quarters
  • fish stock (either my own or store-bought from the fishmonger, depending on how ambitious I am)
  • clam juice (bottled)
  • white wine (the better the wine, the better the taste, so it should really be good enough for you to drink)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Tabasco to taste (not essential)

In a stock pot I sautΓ© the garlic in the olive oil making sure not to burn it. Just until it’s soft and translucent. Then I add the celery, onions, carrots and fennel. Again, I cook until the carrots and fennel get a bit soft and everything else is translucent. Then I add the stock, clam juice and wine. Bring it to a boil. Then reduce and let it simmer for about a half hour.

Then I taste it, to see if I need more garlic. I add pepper and salt if necessary. The last step is the addition of the tomatoes. I don’t put many in. I don’t want the broth to be a tomato broth. But that’s just a matter of personal taste. Again I bring it to a boil and then let it simmer until the tomatoes cook down. When they’re almost done I add the Tabasco. Let it cook for about another 10 or 15 minutes and taste one, last time to see if I need more seasoning.

That’s it for the broth. I give it a good stir and let it rest. Once it cools down it goes into the fridge.

FINAL STEPS

Yes, I’m a fresh food junkie. So as far as the fish is concerned, nothing frozen goes into my bouillabaisse. Nothing out of a can goes into it, either. So you MUST promise to do the same. It’s worth it, trust me. So here’s what goes into mine:

  • monkfish, cut in chunks (big enough so they don’t disintegrate)
  • halibut or grouper, whichever is better on the day, also cut in chunks (or both, if you like — also big enough so they don’t disintegrate)
  • shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • clams
  • mussels
  • lobster

About an hour before dinner I take the broth out of the refrigerator so it can come to room temperature. The fish and seafood don’t take very long to cook, so I only bring it to a boil about 10 minutes before I plan to serve the meal. Once it’s boiling I taste one, last time for seasoning. I put the clams in first as they take the longest to open. But it’s not long, so keep checking. Then I put in the shrimp, followed by the lobster and then the mussels. Each time I add something, I cover the pot, especially so the shells can open. The fish is added last.

Depending on how much you’ve got in there, it takes between 5 and 10 minutes to cook. Really you’re just waiting for the shells to open. DO NOT OVERCOOK. All the seafood will be rubbery, if you do. And REMEMBER — any shells that do not open, MUST be thrown out. Conversely, if there are shells that have opened BEFORE cooking you MUST also throw them away. VERY, VERY IMPORTANT.

Dish into large, deep bowls, with broth. Trust me you will want to also enjoy the broth, just as if it was soup. Garnish with some finely chopped Italian parsley. Put some big empty bowls on the table for all the shells.

Should there be any leftovers, which I sincerely doubt, remove the seafood from the shells before refrigerating.

Don’t know about you, but my mouth is watering. Bon Appetit, everyone.

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32 thoughts on “Day 353. Bragging Rights

  1. It sounds delicious, and thank you for sharing it with us! You definitely deserve to “toot your own horn” for something like this. It seems like we accept it (or even expect such behavior) from men, while thinking it’s wrong for women to brag about special talents.

  2. Love it, my goodness I can smell it – no wait – that’s my husband, what’s he cooking for breakfast? It’s only 10am and the enticing aroma of something good is wafting through the doors, not out of this blog as I thought. πŸ™‚

    What are you cooking? I ask.

    Yaknet beitinjan he replies.

    What’s that? He doesn’t reply, he’s chopping aubergine(eggplant) and there are onions, spicy green peppers and sliced carrots sautΓ©ing in the pot. I look up my book of Classic Palestinian cooking and find both words, but not in the same recipe. I guess I’ll just wait and see.

    And dream of one day trying Francie’s bouillabaisse, in the meantime Marseille is ony half an hour from here . πŸ™‚

    • Mmmmm … I like the sound of what your husband is making. You must let me know what that turns out to be; and how it is. As for my bouillabaisse, you’re the perfect person to get for a taste test. With Marseille so close by, you could try both and declare the winner. Now I have a new incentive to go to Provence πŸ™‚

      • So now I’m just home from a day at the beach and that dish has been sitting there getting tastier all day, I didn’t join him at lunchtime, but after all afternoon in the sea and now with the hot day beginning to cool off, it was absolutely divine, but it’s the magic of the spices he adds to it too, which are a wave of the hand and somewhat secret, despite him insisting their nothing special. So there were chicken pieces in it and the soup I mopped up chunks of a still warm baguette we picked from the boulangerie on the way home! πŸ™‚ Absolutely divine!

      • I just remembered seeing last year Episode 5 of Raymond Blanc The Very Hungry Frenchman and he visited a restaurant in Marseille called Petite Nice where he says they make the best bouillabaisse, and it’s a Michelin star restaurant so I well believe it.

        But Raymond Blanc goes on to make a bouillabaisse terrine, inspired by everything he has seen, there is an extract here from the series of how he makes it, which I am sure you will enjoy – I can just imagine you on a culinary tour of Provence!

        Raymond Blanc – Bouillabaisse Terrine from The Very Hungry Frenchman Episode 5

      • OMG!! I just watched. I am drooling. Yes, I think a culinary tour of Provence is a very good idea.

  3. Hey Fransi! Couldn’t resist taking your recipe, it sounds amazing. Will likely try it around Christmas. Thanks for sharing!! Hugs to you!!

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