...if you do not happen to live on the Mediterranean, you cannot obtain the particular rockfish, gurnards, mullets, weavers, sea eels, wrasses, and breams which they [French experts] consider absolutely essential. But you can make an extremely good fish soup even if you have only frozen fish and canned clam juice to work with because the other essential flavoring of tomatoes, onions or leeks, garlic, herbs, and olive oil are always available."
Yes, I know this is December. I know it is holiday season filled with traditions. There is a wonderful celebration, it is Bouillabaisse Day on 14 December. It is with a tip of my hat that I present my version of this most terrific “French Fisherman’s Stew”.
Bouillabaisse is a fish stew that originated in Marseilles, France around 600 B.C.. Yes, B.C. Marseilles was a Greek colony at this time and being such as known as "kakavia." Bouillabaisse also appears in Roman mythology as a soup that Venus feeds to Vulcan.
You may think that it is some mystical and complicated culinary creation. The truth, as you will see, is it is a simple dish. Use whatever fish you have access to. Shellfish is nice, but certainly not a necessity. This can be a GREAT new addition to your holiday menu. Follow the rules of Kashrut and it can be a wonderful main dish for Hanukkah. Add a couple more types of fish and you have all of the fish needed for an Italian Christmas Eve celebration.
1 leek, washed well and chopped
3-4 cloves garlic,chopped
1 large can of diced tomatoes, drained
6 cups/1.5 liters of water
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp fennel
2 pinches saffron
1 large piece of orange peel
About 3 pounds/1.35kg of assorted fish, We used: sword fish, halibut, lobster, clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops
Salt and pepper, to taste
Olive oil for drizzling
Saute leeks in olive oil for about 5 minutes until wilted but not browned.
Add garlic and tomatoes. Raise heat and cook for a few more minutes.
Add water, all the herbs and seasonings, orange peel and fish. At this point I placed in all the fish but the shellfish. Allow to cook at a moderate boil for about 30 minutes.
Add in the shell fish and allow to cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Once the fish is cooked. Gently take the fish out and reserve to a platter. Using a strainer or sieve, strain the soup leaving just the tomato broth. Taste broth for seasoning.
To plate, plate fish and shellfish in bowl and ladle broth.