Tour France: New Year’s Resolutions & Provencal Dining: Bouillabaisse History & Recipes

New Year’s Resolutions & Provencal Dining

Traditional Summer Dining on Bouillabaisse & Soupe de Poisson, in Winter!

Summer dining in Provence is spectacular for the purity of the ingredients and the full rich taste of super fresh fish and produce. Those of you who regularly read our blog know that we are big proponents of seasonal dining. We don’t often advocate eating a summer dish in winter or visa versa. The food is not fresh or local and the flavors just aren’t the same. However, bouillabaisse or soupe de poisson is an exception to this rule. It is a dish that can be modified (indeed, as you will see below, it needs to be modified to be eaten in the U.S.) So, each January as we contemplate the excesses of the holiday season and how to get back on track, one of our “go to” fixes is to eat soups and stews. A great way to “rebalance”. So, the timing for this sort of dish is perfect. Try the recipe below or modify it to fit your favorite fish.

History: One of the most famous, traditional seaside dishes is Bouillabaisse. It’s truly an “experience”, not just a meal. Even if you can’t come with us to Provence in the summer to have this spectacular dish, you can try our soupe de poisson recipe (modified for the U.S.) and put on a good French CD and “passez un bon moment.”

Bouillabaisse served at the table

This dish is surrounded by myth.  Either it was either created by the Greeks around 500 years BC or perhaps it was created by Venus (goddess of love) to put her husband to sleep so she could have an affair with another god (Mars, the god of war). Certainly, the dish is so copious and so rich that this is believable. And as long as Venus didn’t eat with her hubby, she was probably still energetic enough to sneak away!

However the recipe was born, bouillabaisse is a fish stew –made from what was once considered the dregs of the catch…the fish that was boney and hard to sell. However, as it’s popularity spread, it became a culinary treat of the highest order, with gourmands traveling all day to experience this seafood smorgasbord.

The soup is made from fish broth cooked with fennel, tomato & leek, and seasoned with saffron, bay leaf and pastis. Unlike other stews, there is a full ritual associated with the service of Bouillabaisse.

The broth is served separate from the fish. The fish (and they are specific) are brought to the table on a huge plank or platter, whole. They are filleted  and then served in the bowl along with the other condiments: croutons, rouille or another form of sauce like a saffron aioli, and also shredded cheese. Sometimes whole garlic cloves are served. The diner takes these and wipes the toast with them, then spreads the sauce and plops the crouton into the soup.

Some places also serve the soup with potatoes. And some places serve the dish in courses.

One thing is certain. Bouillabaisse is serious business in Provence in the summer. It has become a sought after, highly gourmet treat. How many dishes do you know that have their own charter prescribing exactly which fish can be used? I know of only one! We have traveled all over the south to find the not just the “true”, but the “best” bouillabaisse. We have dined in Marseille, Saint Tropez, small villages dotting the coastline from east to west, and even on the coast islands of France. There are formal services, wood fired fish, copper kettle cooked stews, and rustic island treats. And the variations are very appetizing. We even tried a spectacular “play” on the dish in a small Provencal town this past October on our Fall foliage trip to Provence. One thing is certain. If you have good very fresh fish, a fine aioli or rouille and a hint of saffron, you have the makings of a great dish.

Tour France: Caio Chow Linda Blogs about Bliss Travels (Recipes included

 The official charter states that bouillabaisse should include at least four of the following types of fish:rascasse (rockfish or scorpion fish), araignée (weever or spider crab),galinette/rouget grondin (red mullet), fielas/congre (conger eel) andchapon/scorpène (red scorpion fish). Optional extras are: Saint Pierre (John Dory), bauroie/ lotte (monkfish), langouste(crayfish) and cigale de mer
Since some of these fish are found strictly in the Mediterranean, that means you can only make real Bouillabaisse in the South of France. (As if  you needed one more reason to go!)

If you’d like to experience this with us this summer along the Mediterranean (or learn what others say about traveling with Bliss), contact us! We have 2 rooms left on our July Provence, Mediterranean and Bastille Day trip!

Our Recipe: Bliss Travels, French Culinary Travel…Follow Your Bliss

 

Soupe de Poisson

¼ cup Olive oil

7-9 small Garlic cloves, chopped

1 ½ cups of chopped sweet onion

2 ½ cups of chopped Leek, white and light green only

1 cup of chopped fennel

4 ½ – 5 cups Tomato (peeled, seeded and chopped)

¾ cups of white wine

12 cups water  (or fish stock)

3-5 Tablespoons of Tomato paste, depending upon the flavor of the fresh tomatoes used above

Herbs:

Dried basil–optional

2 Tablspoons of fresh Thyme, leaves only

¾ Teaspoon of fennel seed

2 Bay leaves

2 -2 inch strips of Orange peel

¼ to ¾  teaspoon of Saffron

Salt and Pepper

Fish:

16 ounces filet of skinned flakey white fish, such as snapper, sole or halibut. Chef’s note: use sole if you wish to serve this incorporated into the broth as below. If you wish to poach the fish and place the fish filets into the broth table side, then a thick cut piece halibut is a great choice, as is scallop and some mussels.

Optional additional fish for poaching (a variety of bass, halibut, scallop, shrimp, mussels…are all good choices. ) DO NOT overcook. See below.

In a large soup pot, heat oil, then add garlic, stir for a moment, add onion, leek and fennel. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes until vegetables soften. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer mixture for 45 minutes to an hour. Use an immersion blender to thoroughly blend, after removing bay leaves.

 

Add the white fish and bring soup to a slow boil, check seasoning, adding salt if necessary. Boil until fish is done, 5 minutes or so. Break up fish into fine flakes with a fork, or by pulsing the immersion blender very very briefly.

 

If using additional fish, poach the fish at the last minute and add whole. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Your fish should be not quite fully cooked when you remove it from the poaching liquid. The heat from the poaching as well as the broth will continue cooking it.

 

Using wide, shallow soup bowls, place poached fish on bottom of bowl, ladle hot soup over fish, and serve with croutons, aoli (garlic mayonnaise with saffron, white wine, lemon and salt), and shredded parmesan or comte cheese on the table.

 

Advertisements

Tour France: Caio Chow Linda Blogs about Bliss Travels (Recipes included

Reblog: A “Whelk-come” Fish Soup by Caio Chow Linda —

A food blogger traveling with Bliss Travels our October, 2012 trip to Provence in October.

Our recipe is below. –A Bientot, Wendy

Part of the joy of traveling to foreign countries is sampling foods you don’t normally eat every day. This fish soup is one of them. When I’m traveling, I’m likely to choose fish at a restaurant — anything from waterzooi in Belgium, brodetto in Italy, or crab soup in Maryland. A lot of times I think I’m being virtuous by staying away from a fat-laden steak, but truth be told, I make up for the calories and cholesterol with all the cakes and pastries I can’t resist afterwards. I do really love fish though, and am always ready to try something new. When I ordered this fish soup at dinner one night on my recent trip to Provence, it came complete with three shells resting on top – unlike any other I’ve ever eaten.
  If you’re thinking they look similar to snails, that’s because they are a kind sea snail. They’re called “whelks” and they’re found all over the world, even in New Jersey. They’re commonly eaten in Europe, and the Japanese like to use them in sushi.  Some varieties are poisonous however, so don’t gather them on a beach and try to cook them if you don’t know what you’re doing. If you want to read more about them, you’ll find a wealth of information here.
Actually, they taste a little rubbery and I can’t say I’d go out of my way to eat them. But they were part of this delicious fish soup I ate on my recent trip to Provence with Bliss Travels, and I certainly would go out of my way to eat this soup again. It’s a lot different from other fish soups I’ve eaten, partly because of the variety of spices used in the recipe. I bought some of the spices one day at a local market in the village, hoping to recreate the soup at home.
Wendy Jaeger, owner of Bliss Travels, explained that there are two kinds of fish soup – bouillabaisse and soupe de poisson. The one I ate (in the photos above) was neither, but rather a “nouvelle” interpretation.  Soupe de Poisson is a fish-based broth, cooked with tomato, fennel, leek, saffron, and onion, and is typically strained after being pureed, Wendy said. It’s also served with croutons,  aioli (kissin’ cousin to mayonnaise but with garlic) or rouille (spicier saffron mayonnaise) and shredded cheese. In the photo below, you can see the small bowls of cheese and rouille alongside my fish soup.
  Bouillabaisse is properly made with fish from the Mediterranean only, Wendy said, one of which is rascasse (scorpion fish). First the broth, similar to the soupe de poisson, is made. Pastis, an anise flavored liqueur, is often added as well. Then whole steamed fish (sometimes boiled slightly in the broth — but never overcooked) are brought out on a platter, along with potatoes and other accompaniments. You then filet the fish you like and place a bit of each into your bowl of broth. The soup and sauces are replenished until you are finished.
The rich, red color in the fish soup pictured above comes from a variety of sources – a reduction of the shellfish shells, as well as the addition of saffron, tomato and sometimes red pepper. Not all fish soups have a red color, however, as you can see from the photos of fish soups I ate on other nights during the trip.
This was a bouillabaisse with freshly caught local fish, served with rouille and a slice of toasted baguette smeared with an olive paste.
 Another day I ate a fish stew served with rice and vegetables. It included a bright red crayfish.
 On my last night there, I chose this small casserole of scallops, shrimp and mussels as my first course — not really a fish soup in the traditional sense, but it deserves to be included because it was so delicious and beautiful too, with a crispy topping.
 How I’d love to be sitting in one of those restaurants right now, enjoying one of those dishes. But in the absence of a flight to Provence, Wendy’s recipe for Soupe de Poisson will have to suffice. If you want to put on your traveling shoes, and you’re looking for a great holiday getaway though, check out Wendy’s upcoming trip to Paris.
Soupe de Poisson
courtesy of Wendy Jaeger, Bliss Travels
 
“My Soupe de Poisson recipe is a hybrid, and has been adapted for the U.S. It is also much quicker to make.  (I would never ever use tomato paste in France, but find it’s a necessity to use here.) What I have done is make a broth that we eat with just the accompaniments — or for more full and formal dining, it’s a broth that we can add fish to it, to make it into a quasi-bouillabaisse. I do not strain it, just puree it. I prefer the fuller feel with the lighter flavor.  Mine is very light and vegetable oriented and I make a saffron and garlic aioli, because that is my preference and I am not a big lover of pepper.” – Wendy
¼ cup olive oil
7-9 small garlic cloves, chopped
1 ½ cups of chopped sweet onion
2 ½ cups of chopped leek, white and light green only
1 cup of chopped fennel
4 ½ – 5 cups tomato (peeled, seeded and chopped)
¾ cups of white wine
12 cups water  (or fish stock)
3-5 Tablespoons of tomato paste, depending upon the flavor of the fresh tomatoes used above
Herbs:
Dried basil–optional
2 Tablespoons of fresh thyme, leaves only
¾ teaspoon of fennel seed
2 bay leaves
2 -2 inch strips of orange peel
¼ to ¾  teaspoon of saffron
salt and pepper
Fish:
16 ounces filet of skinned flaky white fish, such as snapper, sole or halibut
Optional additional fish for poaching (a variety of bass, halibut, scallop, shrimp, mussels…are all good choices)
In a large soup pot, heat oil, then add garlic, stir for a moment, add onion, leek and fennel. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes until vegetables soften. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer mixture for 45 minutes to an hour. Use an immersion blender to thoroughly blend, after removing bay leaves.
Add the whitefish and bring soup to a slow boil, check seasoning, adding salt if necessary. Boil until fish is done, five minutes or so. Break up fish into fine flakes with a fork, or by pulsing the immersion blender just briefly.
 
If using additional fish, poach the fish at the last minute and add whole.
Using wide, shallow soup bowls, place poached fish on bottom of bowl, ladle hot soup over fish, and serve with croutons, aioli (garlic mayonnaise with saffron, white wine, lemon and salt), and shredded parmesan or comte cheese on the table.