Bouillabaisse

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This is the type of cooking I love most. Taking beautiful, fresh ingredients and minimally altering them, allowing each component to lend its individuality to the dish. Bouillabaisse is a pleasure both to prepare and enjoy.  The developing aromas of this classic combination are heavenly and assures that these ingredients belong together.

Fennel, leeks, tomatoes, and white wine create a flavorful broth for the fish to poach, while the salty brine released from the mussels and clams add a vibrant depth of flavor. Arguably the most important finishing element to the dish, the crusty garlicky bread, soaks it all up.

As should be encouraged for every dish, this soup is only as good as the ingredients you use. Choose a day when you or your fish market will have access to very fresh, good quality fish.

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Bouillabaisse traditionally contains at least three different types of fish in addition to the shellfish, however when serving for two people, I find one to be sufficient.  

Recipe (serves 2) 

 1 whole snapper or 2 filets 

6 jumbo shrimp 

6 little neck clams 

10 mussels 

1 large leek 

1 fennel bulb 

2 cloves garlic 

1/2 cup white wine 

1 can diced tomatoes 

pinch of saffron 

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper

2 cups water  or vegetable stock

2 sprigs tarragon 

sourdough bread

1 clove garlic

If using a whole fish, remove the filets and place in the refrigerator until ready to use. Rinse the bones under cold water. Add a splash of olive oil to a saucepan and sweat the fish bones on low heat for about two minutes. Add the 2 cups of water, bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the leeks and fennel. Slice the fennel thinly and the leeks into a julienne. Add about 1 tbs of olive oil to a large saucepan and sweat the leeks and fennel on a low heat. Finely chop the garlic and add. Cover with a lid and allow to sweat for about 5 minutes or until the vegetables have softened. If the pan starts to dry out, add a bit of water. Add the wine, turn up the heat to medium and allow to reduce completely (uncovered). Pour in the tomatoes and strain the fish stock into the pan. (If not using fish stock, use vegetable stock or water.) Add the saffron, red pepper, and whole sprigs of tarragon to the soup. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the broth is simmering, scrub the mussels and clams, peel the shrimp if necessary, and slice each snapper filet into 2 pieces. Slice the bread, drizzle with olive oil and toast until golden and slightly charred. Halve a garlic clove and immediately rub onto the bread while hot.  

When the 20 minutes have passed, remove the tarragon sprigs and add the clams and mussels to the simmering broth, cover, and cook for 3-5 minutes or until all of the shells have opened. Using tongs, remove the cooked mussels and clams and set aside in a bowl. While on a very low simmer, add the snapper and shrimp, making sure the fish is submerged in the broth. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the fish has cooked through. At this point, check the broth for seasoning and add salt if necessary.

Carefully spoon 2 pieces of snapper with a generous serving of leeks and fennel into each bowl. Place shrimp, mussels, and clams around. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve with toasted garlic bread.