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Cooking with Abandon–Bouillabaisse or Something Like it

For the sake of full disclosure, I had to stage the above photo with leftovers from our delicious seafood stew.   I had a friend over for a girls night and considering the fun we were having making this combined with a general lack of recipe following or formal documentation of the added ingredients, I wasn’t sure if it would make a good post.  But…this was just so good that I had to give it a nod.

I’ve made Cioppino a few times, loosely following a recipe and found it enjoyable. This time around, I really wanted to explore its French relative, Bouillabaisse. I am in no means an expert on the topic, but my overall findings showed a greater emphasis on fresh herbs over a spiciness factor found in Cioppino.

Here’s what I did for 2 people…there was just a little leftover as shown, but of course the most prized seafood (King Crab/Scallops) is clearly missing from the photo because there were no leftovers of those!  I think the fun of making a seafood stew is using what you have and tasting as you go, so this is more of a guideline than a true recipe.  The one thing I would not skip though is the use of orange.  I normally would have used lemon, but WOW, the flavor from the orange was amazing.

In a large pot, I combined a small pat of butter with a little olive oil.  To this, I added the following:

  • 1 onion sliced (I used red onion)
  • 1 fennel bulb sliced (reserve the fronds)

I sautéed these over low heat for a good 15-20 minutes, being careful to keep them from browning.  Once very soft, I added:

  • 2 finely chopped garlic gloves
  • 1/2 bottle (about 1 1/2 cups) of dry white wine

Bring the mixture to a simmer and let this cook until the wine has reduced by about half. To the wine, I added:

  • about 1 tablespoon each (all chopped & fresh): Fennel Fronds, Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley, Basil
  • scant dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon saffron threads
  • 1 cup 1/2″ cubed red potatoes (red Fench fingerlings were on sale, so that’s what I used)
  • 3/4 cup peeled and seeded* diced tomatoes
  • juice & peel from one orange (removed most of pith from peel and added in strips to pot)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cups of liquid–I used a half and half combination of bottled clam juice** and seafood stock that had been homemade by my friend. (These proportions can be changed or swapped with vegetable or chicken stock, although of course the end flavor will vary depending on the liquids used.)
  • Several generous turns of the pepper mill
  • Sea Salt to taste

This is the time to really taste the broth and season as needed to adjust the flavor as you wish.  When you are happy with the flavor, throw on the lid and simmer for 10 minutes.

Now…the stunning seafood***.  This what I used, but of course this should be a combination of your favorite seafood and/or what’s available.  Once you get to this point, your seafood will cook very quickly, so don’t add it until you’re almost ready to eat.

  • 1/2 pound cod (cut into 1 inch cubes)
  • 1/2 pound mussels (scrubbed and debearded)
  • 1/2 pound shrimp (peeled and cleaned)
  • 1/4 pound King Crab (thawed and cut into 1 to 2 inch lengths)
  • 1/3 pound sea scallops

Start with the fish and let that simmer for about 2 minutes.  Add in the mussels and give it another 2 minutes.  Then add the shrimp and crab and give it another few minutes until the shrimp are done and the mussels are open.  Given the loveliness of a perfectly seared scallop, I seared those over high heat separately and added to the top of the bowl.

I served this with some crusty bread and a crisp, yet rich chardonnay**** courtesy of my sous chef, dining companion, and dear friend. Bon Appetit!

* To easily peel a fresh tomato, make shallow slits into the tomato in an X pattern–plunge it into boiling water for 10-15 seconds and then immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water.  The peel will come right off and you can squeeze/rinse the seeds right out. Of course, you could use some canned tomatoes as well.
** I like Bar Harbor brand clam juice.
***Mitchell’s Fish Market (yes, the chain restaurant) sells retail–this was my first order from them and it won’t be the last!
****We drank Alma Rosa Chardonnay Santa Barbara 2008 and it was delicious.

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