From the forthcoming book 100 Greatest Dishes of the World, copyright by Anya Von Bremsen.
This all-in-one version is probably closer to your idea of a bouillabaisse—a gutsy soup thick with fish, potatoes, and shellfish. You'll still need to make the bouillon, which is easy, but all the other ingredients briefly poach right in the soup. On popular demand, I've added clams and a few shrimp—not authentic but nice. I like shrimp in their shells, preferably with the heads on, but peel them if you like. Too busy to make croutons? Eat the soup simply with rounds of toasted baguette. A great, messy meal.
1. Place the potatoes in the bouillon and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook until the potatoes are nearly done, about 15 minutes.
2. Add the firmer fish, such as monkfish and tilefish and poach for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the fish, mussels, and clams, bring the bouillon back to a simmer, and cook until the fish is done and the mussels and clams have opened, about 7 minutes. Don't worry if bits of fish flake off. Add the shrimp and cook until they just turn pink, about 2 minutes. Do not overcook the shrimp. Ladle into bowl and serve, garnished with parsley.
Makes 8-10 cups
For a good strong fish broth you'll need frames, heads, tails, and trimmings from larger fish such as red snapper, sea bass, striped or black bass, grouper, rock cod, or halibut. I also love the wonderfully gelatinous monkfish tails. Call your fishmonger ahead and ask to reserve these for you (red snapper is always a great standby if nothing else is available). If you can find them, try to also add smaller fish such as mullet, porgy, ocean perch, whiting, or sea robin. (Chinatown fish markets are good sources for small cheap rockfish.) Feel free to throw in a dozen mussels or a couple of blue crab for extra flavor, but absolutely avoid oily fish, such as salmon or bluefish.
Though these are not always used in Marseille, you can enhance this broth with diced carrot, sliced leeks (the white part only), a bay leaf, a few springs of thyme, and a strip of orange zest with the white pith removed.
1. Wash the fish carcasses thoroughly, and remove all traces of blood and viscera. Cut off the gills.
2. In a very large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the garlic, onions, and fennel. Sauté the vegetables until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the fish, cover, and cook until it just turns opaque, about 10 minutes, shaking the pot and turning the fish from time to time. Add the tomatoes and the dried fennel and cook, stirring, for another 5 to 7 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil over high heat. Let it boil vigorously for 10 minutes, skimming. Season with salt and pepper, and add the tomato paste, pastis, and saffron. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, until the fish begins to disintegrate, about 30 minutes. Skim thoroughly from time to time. Taste the broth; if it doesn't seem powerful enough, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Strain the liquid into another large pot, leaving the solids in a colander (you will have to do this in several batches). When the fish is cool enough to handle, pick through the solids, discard the larger pieces of vegetables and the heads, tails and larger bones— anything that's not pureeable—from the fish. Also discard the fennel stalks and orange zest, if using. Puree about 4 cups of the soft solids through a food mill, such as a Mulinex, then strain through a fine sieve back into the liquid. If you don't have a food mill, puree the solids in a blender with a little liquid, then strain. Place the pot on medium-high heat and reduce by one-third, about 15 minutes. The bouillon should be beautifully concentrated. If it loses its reddish hue, add a little extra saffron and tomato paste, diluted in water.
The bouillabaisse arguments even extend to the croutons: Some like them very dry; others a little chewy. If you belong to the latter camp, bake them for about 8 minutes and serve right away.
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the bread slices on two large baking sheets and brush with the oil. Bake until light golden and crispy, about 10-12 minutes or less for chewier croutons. Remove the croutons from the oven, rub with the garlic, and leave to dry, uncovered, for a few hours.
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