Sunday # 11: LA BOUILLABAISSE MARSEILLAISE (Seafood Stew)
Ahhh – The crux of French Technique cooking. When you think of French Technique cooking this dish is probably one that flashes through your mind and it screams Julia Child.
When I made it at school, my first thought was “oh my friends would love this!” It took almost a year for me to do it again in my own kitchen. Why Nicole? Why did you not make this sooner? You ask why?! This dish requires fish stock (fish fumet) and fish soup (SOUP DE POISSON) and because, I don’t actually live inside a culinary school, I really had to schedule a full day to prepare some of the easy “on-hand” items we had readily available at school before I could start the actual LA BOUILLABAISSE MARSEILLAISE, so a year later is when I scheduled a free day to make magic happen.
I knew I would need fish stock and unlike other stocks, fish stock can easily be made the same day because it takes about an hour or so to simmer on the stove rather than the 6-8 hours other stocks require. With that said, I still needed raw fish bones to simmer. So I made a list of all the ingredients for the stock, the soup, the marseillaise, the seafood and then the rouille for the crouton. I headed to Whole Foods because I like their selection of fresh fish and a quick google search led me to believe they may also have fish bones.
I was right! Whole Foods had the best selection of Scallops, Shrimp, Mussels, and Sea Bass (in school we used Monkfish, but the look of monkfish grosses me out so I swapped it for sea bass). Essentially you can use whatever seafood you want – I’m convinced this dish was originally invented to use leftovers.
I asked the guy at the seafood counter if they had any fish bones. He looked at me curious, so I further explained I was trying to make homemade fish stock. I was in luck!, he told me that he had just finished filleting some fish. He wrapped up the bones and heads and gave them to me for FREE. Can you believe it! Side note: Whole Foods also sells fish stock in a box, I had no idea that was available. But since I was sticking with culinary school tradition I decided to impress my guests with homemade fish stock.
I got home and saw that I got two HUGE fish heads and bones. I thought it would be wise and the most bang for my buck if I made enough fish stock (fish fumet) for this dish and to freeze for future 24 Sunday Meals because I have quiet a few that call for this ingredient. Genius!
To start, I sweated white mirepoix (to make mirepoix white you simply replace the carrot with leeks), and fennel with butter. Then I added in the fish bones, my bouquet garni, deglaze with white wine, and then add in cold water. Bring it up to a boil and then back down to a simmer for approx. 1 hour. Easy Peasy.
After an hour or so, I had my sous chef husband strain it making sure to remove all the fish goo, leaving only clean and clear stock.
According to my school notes, leaner fish make better stock, however beggars can’t be choosers so my stock came out a little on the greasy side but still tasty.
Excited about my previous decision to keep some stock for the future, I separated the batch into two, one for today’s dish and one to cool for the freezer. Little did I know I was thisclose to having a kitchen disaster. Did I mention it’s a new kitchen, we just moved in a few months ago and after this accident- I have officially made it mine.
Being the genius I called myself earlier, I decided to store the leftover stock in a ziplock gallon bag thinking it would be a freezer-space-saver. Considering it never made it to the freezer, makes me right I suppose. I poured the stock in the ziplock bag, I left it open on the counter for it to cool down. As, I moved on to another step to complete the stew, little did I know, the fish stock was slowly and quietly spilling out of ziplock bag all over the counter. It steeped in the utensil drawer below and into the cabinet underneath – pools, deep pools of fish stock everywhere! I had to put the stew making on hold to help my husband take apart the drawer and cabinet. We had to wash EVERYTHING and air out the entire drawer and cabinet before putting anything away – it was a mess. And it smelled terrible, luckily 24 hours later, lysol spray helped with the lasting fish-stock-smell & killed any leftover fish germs before we put the kitchen back together. – OOPS.
That didn’t stop me, after the clean up, I worked around the deconstructed kitchen to complete the stew! I turned my fish stock into SOUP DE POISSON which is a fortified fish stock. In a warm pot I broke down more fish bones, shrimp shells (I cleaned the shrimp earlier – and I’ll get to that later) and added in mirepoix, fennel, garlic, saffron, tomato paste, a bouquet garni. Deglazing with white white & Pernod (this licorice flavor liquor is a key ingredient for this dish, and totally worth the $30)
Reduced until it’s almost A SEC. A SEC is when the liquid reduces to just-about-dry. I added in some scrap fish, and sacrificed some mussels to add more flavor. Then I added in fish fumet (the fish stock I made earlier) and brought it up to simmer so that the flavors develop.
Cleaning Shrimp: for this particular dish I wanted to take off the entire shell and de-vein. To carefully remove the shell but keep the shape of the shrimp, it’s easier if you pull the shell starting at the feet pulling it to the back, slowly so that it comes off in one peel. Then you will want to take a small knife, run it down the back and remove the goo – this is called de-veining. (the shells removed is what can be used to help flavor the SOUP DE POISSON above). Season with salt. Over medium heat, pan sear until just-about-done & set aside.
Mussels: I got into depth about this in another blog. The important steps to remember are to keep them cold, remove the beard if they have one by yanking the fuzzy stuff off the shell. Mussels are still alive they might fight back but one hard pull should take the beard right off. Discard any opened shells because they should not be eaten. Pull out a few mussels to sacrifice for the SOUP DE POISSON and keep the rest for the stew.
Sea Bass: Cut into bite size pieces. Season with salt and set aside. Over medium heat, pan sear until just-about-done & set aside.
Scallops: Pull off the side mussel if the scallop has one. Season with salt and set aside. Over medium heat, pan sear until just-about-done & set aside. (The side mussels can be added to the SOUP DE POISSON)
Rounding the corner to the almost-last-step for this stew – phew what a long day. My sous chef husband strained the seafood broth until it was clear and free of any fish scrap particles.
In a clean pot I reheated the broth otherwise known as SOUP DE POISSON.
In a separate pan, I prepared the MARSEILLAISE – Julianne leeks, sweated in olive oil & saffron, deglazed with Pernod.
In the SOUP DE POISSON, I added in the MARSEILLAISE, potatoes, sea bass, mussels, and scallops in order to allow them to cook/warm through to proper temperature without overcooking – this takes some time and temperature control, it’s made easier by the prep work above. Lastly, I seasoned with lemon juice and chopped parsley.
Voilà – LA BOUILLABAISSE MARSEILLAISE! I served it with crusty bread topped with a Red Pepper Aioli.