Bouillabaisse is a very popular provençal fish stew from the port city of Marseille. I really wanted to make one in the US, but being so far away from the Mediterranean, I could not find the Mediterranean fish traditionally used in Bouillabaisse, so I had to be creative. I came up with my own recipe, made with the fish and seafood I could find locally, while still keeping the provençal flavors. I simplified the traditional recipe so as to have an easy recipe that anyone could make. The result is an easy and delicious fish stew that smells so good, it will make you feel like you are in Provence!
Traditionally, the Bouillabaisse contains three different kinds of fish. Usually, the Mediterranean rascasse, the sea robin, and the European conger. Possible US substitutes are monkfish, red snapper, and halibut. Other possible choices in the US are turbot, striped bass, porgy, grouper and/or cod. I recommend you get the freshest local fish you can find, and get three different kinds.
Usually, tomatoes, carrots, leeks, potatoes, and fennel accompany the fish. Personally, I like tomatoes the best so I decided to make my soup with tomatoes only. But feel free to add the other vegetables if you’d like.
Saffron is an essential flavor that absolutely needs to be part of the soup. I was able to find red saffron in filaments at my local international grocery store. Otherwise, you can find it online.
An other important part of the soup is to bring it to a boil (bouillir in French), and then quickly lower the heat (baisse in French), hence the name bouilla-baisse. So I tried to incorporate that technique in my recipe.
I cooked my bouillabaisse in a dutch oven (cocotte). However, you do not necessarily need one, as long as you have a big enough pot with a lid.
In Marseille, Bouillabaisse is typically served with slices of bread and rouille.