The Bouillabaisse is a traditional fish soup from the South of France. The name comes from the original cooking method; in Provençal Occitan "bolhir" (when it boils) "abaissar" (lower the heat). 

That was the go-to meal for Marseille fishermen: they used to make this soup from their unsold bony rockfish, adding onions, fennel and herbs. You will find tons of variations to the original recipe of course.

After many trials and tasting parties (I torture my friends sometimes!) I finalized my version of the Bouillabaisse. I prepare the soup (broth) and the seafood separately.

The base for this dish is a seafood tomato broth with fennel, white wine, saffron and a hint of orange zest. I like the soup to be silky and smooth so I strain it to avoid any fiber residue. As for the shrimps, scallops and fish; all tasting committee members agree: it is always better with a nice sear… The mussels are cooked at the very last minute, in the hot soup.

This classical fish soup is usually served with a slice of crusty bread and rouille: red pepper aioli (recipe follows).

I tried to simplify the recipe as much as possible. It might seem labor intense but it is worth every effort. When you plan ahead it’s very easy and (almost) effortless. You can make the rouille and the soup up to two days ahead. On the day of the party, you just reheat the soup and cook the seafood a few minutes before serving.

This Bouillabaisse has two main attributes: It is an impressive dish to serve while hearty and comforting to enjoy!

Bon appétit!




recipe credits: Rafaella Sargi
Serves 4

Rouille Ingredients
1 red capsicum, cut in half and seeded
1/2 red chili, seeded and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons plain bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Rouille Directions
You will need on small baking sheet, aluminum foil, a small food processor and a small bowl for serving.
Scale and prep all the ingredients.

Heat the oven broiler on high.
Place the red capsicum skin side up on a small baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Let it roast until the red capsicum skin blisters. Remove from the oven and wrap the aluminum around the capsicum. Set aside for 15 minutes. Remove the roasted skin and discard.
Roughly chop the red capsicum.
In the bowl of a small food processor, place the roasted capsicum, red chili, garlic, bread crumbs and salt and mix until completely pureed. 
Add half of the oil and mix again until well combined. Add the remaining olive oil and mix again. You are looking for a paste like rouille. It should be smooth and spreadable but not runny. Taste and correct seasoning.
Transfer the rouille to a small serving bowl, cover with food safe plastic wrap and place in the fridge until ready to use.

Make ahead tip: The rouille can be prepared up to two days in advance and kept in the fridge.

Bouillabaisse Ingredients
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped (approx 1 cup)
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup white wine
4 cups seafood stock, preferably homemade or from your local fish market
1 pinch saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 bouquet garni
A handful of fresh dill
Black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 big shrimps, peeled and deveined
3/4 lb grouper (or snapper), cut into med-sized cubes
8 scallops
12 big mussels (or 24 small ones) rinsed, scrubbed and debearded.
Plus a little more olive oil for cooking the seafood.

Bouillabaisse Directions
Scale and prep all the ingredients.
You will need two large heavy pots, a frying pan, two medium size bowls, an immersion blender and a large strainer.

In a medium bowl, mix the shrimps, grouper pieces and scallops with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and fleur de sel. Set aside. (Keep the mussels in the fridge)

In a large heavy bottom pot, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Add the chopped onions and fennel and cook over medium high heat until lightly golden. Add the tomatoes, lower the heat to medium and cook for 8 minutes. Pour the white wine, bring to a boil and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Add the seafood stock, saffron, orange zest, bouquet garni, salt and pepper. Bring to a rolling boil point. Lower the heat to medium and let it simmer uncovered for 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat.
Remove the bouquet garni.
With an immersion blender, purée the tomato and seafood stock. Strain the "soup" over a clean pot, discarding fiber and pulp remaining in the strainer. Taste and correct the seasoning. Set aside.

When you are ready to serve, bring the soup back to a nice simmer.

Meanwhile, heat a few drizzles of olive oil in a large frying pan and cook the shrimps, grouper and scallops in batches. You are looking for a nice sear and the seafood to be nicely cooked through but not dry nor rubbery. Be attentive! This step is quick and needs attention.
Plunge the mussels in the simmering soup, cover and let cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Discard any unopened mussel.
Equally divide the seared seafood in individual bowl, add a few cooked mussels, pour a ladle of the delicious soup over and sprinkle a few fresh dill.
Serve with crusty bread and rouille.

I like to serve this Bouillabaisse with an additional spread: Saffron Mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Black pepper

In a small bowl, soak the saffron in a tablespoon of hot water for approx. 5 minutes. Whisk in the remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and let it sit in the fridge until ready to serve. You can prepare this spread a day in advance (it also enhances the deep yellow color!).


saffron mayonnaise recipe adapted from Ina Garten: Foolproof.