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Modern Bouillabaisse

From the book Food Matters by
Serves 4
Total Time 1 hour


Traditionally, people living on the Mediterranean coast made bouillabaisse using whatever scrap fish and market produce they had handy. Over the years, as people have become richer and fish more widely available, the vegetables have become almost an afterthought. In a way, this recipe is a return to tradition, offering plenty of flexibility with the fish — firmer fish is usually better, so it holds together, but any fish will “work” — and plenty of vegetables. You can always add a few clams or mussels to the pot, or any other fish you like.

Note that the cooking time here is largely for preparation; the stew simmers for only a few minutes. The sauce here is akin to the authentic rouille.


Sauce (optional)

~ Roasted Red Pepper Sauce
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise, preferably homemade
~ Pinch of minced garlic


2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
2 leeks, white and tender green parts, trimmed and cut into coins (or use onions)
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
~ Zest from 1 orange
~ Big pinch of saffron (optional)
1 dried hot chile, or a pinch of cayenne, or to taste
1 sprig fresh tarragon (optional)
2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned are fine; drain them first)
lb. small red or white potatoes, peeled if you like and cut into wedges
1 lb. almost any seafood (like monkfish, cod, scallops, squid, or shrimp), peeled, skinned, boned, and cut into chunks as needed
2 carrots or parsnips, cut into coins
2 stalks celery (with the leaves if you like), cut into chunks
½ lb. sugar snap peas or snow peas (optional)
2 cups vegetable, shrimp, or fish stock, dry white wine, or water, plus more as needed
½ cup roughly chopped parsley leaves, or use chopped chervil or fennel fronds if you like
~ Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 or 2 whole-grain baguettes, cut crosswise into slices and toasted if you like (optional)


  1. If you’re making the sauce (rouille), combine the red-pepper sauce with the mayonnaise and the pinch of minced garlic. Set aside for the flavors to blend.
  2. Put the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the fennel bulb, leeks, 1 Tbsp. garlic, and zest, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the saffron if you’re using it, the chile or cayenne, and the tarragon if using, and cook for about a minute. Add the tomatoes and potatoes and cover.
  3. After about 5 minutes, lift the lid and stick a fork in the potatoes; if they’re not yet beginning to get tender, cover and cook another couple of minutes. Try sticking the potatoes again; when the fork meets with just a little resistance, add the fish, carrots or parsnips, celery, snap peas or snow peas if you’re using them, and stock, adding enough extra to just cover the fish and vegetables.
  4. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn off the heat. Let the pot rest for about 5 minutes; the vegetables you just added should be crisp-tender, and the fish should be opaque and cooked through (if not, return the pot to a simmer again for a couple of minutes).
  5. Stir in the parsley, taste and adjust seasoning, and serve with the bread and sauce (if you made it) passed at the table.

This content is from the book Food Matters by Mark Bittman.

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