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


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


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.


Tour France: Provence Goat Cheese Tart with Fresh Fruit

Herbed Walnut Tart Crust For Goat Cheese Tarts

Bon appétit

Bon appétit

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup powdered sugar

¾ cups walnut pieces

½ – ¾ teaspoon coarse sea salt

10 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1-2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 small egg yolks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Blend the first four ingredients until finely ground, and add herbs. Add the butter until a coarse meal forms. Add yolk, one at a time, until the dough forms moist clumps. Do not over process unless you want a “cookie” like crust (this works if you will be making mini tarts). Form the dough into a ball.—At this point the dough can be wrapped in wax paper and an airtight baggy and frozen for a month.

Roll dough between two pieces of wax paper to a thickness of approximately a ¼ inch. Press dough into a  9-11 inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Cover the pan with wax paper and chill in the refrigerator for one or more hours.

Remove wax paper, place crust on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Check crust after 5 minutes and if crust is puffing up, gently press down the bottom and the sides. Return to oven; continue baking until golden (approximately 10-15 minutes); continue to check for puffing. Cool crust.

Fill with:

Fresh goat cheese (no rind) thinned with a bit of olive oil and milk. Spread on tart evenly.

Top with:

Sweet –Summer in Provence: Fresh sliced figs. Then drizzle with honey and with olive oil.

Savory — Summer in Provence: Fresh sliced, ripe, tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle sea salt and herbs. (If making a savory tart, cut back sugar in above recipe.)The savory version with tomatoes!

The savory version with tomatoes!

Savory — Summer in Provence: Fresh sliced, ripe, tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle sea salt and herbs. (If making a savory tart, cut back sugar in above recipe.)

Fall/Winter: Roasted pears, quartered and placed circularly on the tart.

Bon appétit

Spring in Provence: Wild strawberries, drizzled with oil. Or cherries (preferably from a tree)!

Our class topped the tart with cherries -not fresh like the ones here, found in June in Provence

Our class topped the tart with cherries -not fresh like the ones here, found in June in Provence

There are many seasonal variations of this great dish… Come up with what’s best for your location. For us, it’s summer figs in Provence!

Tour France Lavender

Tour France: Food & Wine Vacations are Bliss!

Some places are extraordinary. Some meals are as well. It’s that magical combination of place, ambiance, warm welcome, specialty cuisine and company that makes these places pure Bliss! 

Of course, getting there is also half the fun. 

The wines were all Chateauneuf du Pape. Chateau La Nerthe 2009 white and red. The white was among the best I’ve every had.

An amuse bouche of eggs. The eggs in Provence are different (yes, even if you eat free range, farm eggs in the US. They are not the same.)

A lasagne of vegetables topped with girolles mushrooms was as tasty as it was healthy and beautiful.

An absolutely marvelous variation on the theme of Bouillabaisse. Truly memorable. A saffron fish broth held the freshest poached fish –not overly cooked–and still succulent and tender — with a saffron aioli and a tapenade crouton. This dish was a trip highlight and one we will make at home –that’s a promise. When the recipe is worked out Bliss Travels will share it.
Scallops in a lemongrass and leek broth…another “keeper”.

The requisite chocolate, salted caramel with dark chocolate and hazelnut was as good as it looked, but the real surprise was the Grand Marnier poached pear with orange and a four grain tulle. A truly superlative example of what fresh fruit can become in the hands of a master chef!

Experience Bliss with us. Contact us when you are ready to have this sort of vacation.

Fall…Along the Mediterranean

Yes, jousting is still possible to watch. Bet you wanted to know how popular this Medeival sport really was. We were pretty surprised to see this. But, it does fit with the mood along the coast, where there are games and performances, no matter what the season.

Wine tasting in our favorite “cave”. Trying the local whites.

Dinner in a private room, overlooking the Mediterranean cliffs at sunset.

Some of the dining choices…Mussels along the Med are often paired with wonderful sauces. This had a tomato, onion, and a touch of cream.Rascasse — a fish found only in the Mediterreanean.A nice walk after a satisfying dinner.

calm and quiet after the summer high season.

cafe lounging before our walk around the cliffs.
It was a beautiful, fall day…wind was blowing, but that made the sky very blue and the temperatures cool enough to walk all afternoon.