Monday, January 23, 2012

Bouillabaisse (Seafood Stew)

Add a ladle of broth to the bowl, and dig in with a fork in one hand, and a wedge of crusty bread in the other.

This is one of my absolute favorite seafood dishes.  This recipe is a take on one I found in the Silver Pallet Cookbook, and tweaked.  Bouillabaisse is actually, just a fish stew.  Every country in western Europe has their own version and name for what is essentially, the same thing - another reason I loved dining out while living in Europe :)

While nowhere near as popular in the States, it's easy to find the necessary ingredients in local grocery stores these days.  Don't worry if you can't find, or can't justify buying the saffron.  Its an unusual spice that still costs a fortune here, and while it definitely adds flavor, your stew will still be tasty without it.

1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups leeks, coarsely chopped (white and light green parts only)
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups tomato puree
3 cups chopped/diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons dried or fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cups dry white wine
4 cups fish stock
salt and pepper to taste
6 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 quarts fresh mussels
3 dozen fresh clams
1 1/2 teaspoons saffron
3 pounds skinless firm white fish (cut into large cubes)
3 dozen raw shrimp, shelled, deveined
4 lobster tails (cut into bite-sized pieces).

In a large soup pot, cook the leeks and onion in olive oil, over medium heat until soft.  Add the butter, only to melt.  Sprinkle the onion mixture with 2 tablespoons flour.  Mix to coat.  Add the tomatoes and the puree, the bay leaves, saffron, wine, and fish stock.  Combine well so all of the flour is dissolved.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and pepper (more or less to taste).  Bring mixture to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer for fifteen minutes.

Carefully add the white fish, shrimp, lobster, and shellfish.  Put a lid on the simmering pot, and continue to cook, checking every so often (ten minutes) to observe whether the clam/mussel shells have opened.  Stir if needed.  When the shellfish has opened, and the fish is cooked firm (it should dry-flake when pricked with a fork), remove from heat.

To serve, put a small dollop of cooked white rice, in the center of individual, shallow soup/pasta bowls.  Ladle the fish stew over the rice, and serve piping hot with a wedge of crusty bread (I like sourdough because it has a denser texture than French or Italian, and holds up better when used to sop up the fish liquor).

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