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French Seafood Stew aka Bouillabaisse

I've always enjoyed bouillabaisse, but I've never tried making it. I assumed (wrongly) that it was very complicated. 

It is really simple to make and I have minimized the ingredients below, to make it even easier than a classical preparation. However, if you want a classic Bouillabaisse, just add in the optional ingredients listed below

Bouillabaisse is basically a fisherman's stew and reflects what seafood was caught fresh that day. There are many variations of this classic dish from Marseille.

I like to start with the classic preparations and then branch off from there. If you find a set of common ingredients, then you can start to craft your own recipe and make it your own. 

I love cookbooks and read them like novels. I always basically know the recipe I want to prepare, but I find that looking at multiple recipes and sources, gives me the best results. This is loosely based on Ina Garten’s Seafood Stew. 


4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large Onion, chopped 
1 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp Thyme
2 Bay Leaf
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1 cup White Wine
1 tsp Saffron threads, crushed in palm of your hand.
1 (28-ounce) can diced Tomatoes, juice included
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
1 quart Seafood or Fish Stock
1 cup Clam Juice
1Tbsp Red Boat Fish Sauce
1 Tbsp Garlic, chopped 
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined. 
1 pound each Halibut, Hake, Cod or Monkfish, cut in large chunks. So 2 pounds total.
1 tsp grated Orange zest

Optional ingredients: Fennel Bulb, Pernod, Potatoes, fresh Clams, fresh Mussels or Scallops


Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot, add the onions, salt, pepper, and spices, (if using potatoes, add them here) and sauté over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until the onions begin to lightly carmelize. 

Add the wine and the saffron and let it simmer and become fragrant. Add the tomato paste and incorporate, add tomatoes, seafood stock, clam juice, fish sauce and garlic to the pot, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 15 -20 minutes. 

Add the shrimp and fish and bring up to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit covered for another 5 minutes. 

Stir in the Pernod, if using, orange zest, and add salt to taste as needed. Serve in large bowls with toasted garlic baguette slices. 

Note: Classic preparations often call for fennel bulb and the addition of Pernod. I find that many people are not fond of that anise taste, so I have left it out of my recipe. If you want to include it, just use 1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb sautéed along with the onions and 2 Tbsp of Pernod added at the end. 

Additionally, feel free to add additional seafood as desired. Its important to remember that clams and mussels must be scrubbed before adding them to the bouillabaisse, and remember to discard any of them that do not fully open.


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