Chock full of fresh seafood, you'll love my version of this Classic from Marseilles. Clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops simmered in a light saffron broth. Simply delicious!
My Bouillabaisse story-
Quite a few years ago when we were traveling through France, we happened to spend a few hours in Marseille. Unfortunately, we spent our time in the train station in sweltering heat waiting for the TGV. This had been the last leg of our trip through the south of France, we had just spent a few days in Nice and had begun our way back with a stop in Aix en Provence.
What a perfect city, we had stayed on the Cours Mirabeau whereas the guidebooks stated was the place to be while in Aix. That turned out to be a good thing and a bad thing. As we walked to our hotel we were swept away by the beauty of the city, its little cafes and tree-lined streets, its many fountains and of course the footsteps of Cezanne…….we were in love and in love with the city…sigh.
We checked in to the hotel and after turning on the air conditioner (did I mention it was sweltering) we left for a tour of the city. We walked were Cezanne walked and ate in sweet little cafes, and sipped our cafe au laits….sigh….life was good! Then as we headed back to the hotel for a much-needed rest before the next day brought us to Paris, we found a problem with our room…..no air conditioning….did I mention it was sweltering, I mean the kind of hot where you sweat standing still.
I went to the manager and told him the air was not working in and in his very French way he shrugged and said that happens sometimes. He had a fan, I asked for it, he said no, and the discussion was over. So we opened our windows to catch a bit of a breeze, but of course, the Cours Mirabeau was the place to be, and it was the place to be until 3 am when the cafes finally emptied. Finally all was quiet, we breathed a sigh of relief and slept…….for an hour because at 4 am the street sweepers came out and stayed out until 6 am and then they began to set up for breakfast…..sigh
As we struggled out of bed and headed for breakfast, we tried to be happy, we were of course in Aix, one of the most beautiful cities in France, and after breakfast we found a market, and sampled fruits and made our purchases for the train ride to Paris. Life was good, we were exhausted, but life was good!The train station was only a few blocks away, and it was packed, but we had time…..when I finally made it to the window, I was told I was at the wrong station, we wanted the TGV, and it left in 10 minutes!!
We couldn’t make it, but we could go to Marseille and get the TGV from there. Ok, it’s not that bad, so I asked for tickets to Marseille on the local train, that all the other passengers had just boarded, I was told No, the train workers had just gone on strike. Can you imagine……but I could get the bus to Marseille. Of course, I could…lol….and where was the bus? Oh just around the corner 500 meters away.
So we boarded the bus and headed to Marseille, and that is where our story began, as we waited in the sweltering heat for 3 hours for the TGV to Paris. But it was a story to tell, and it only got stranger as we got to Paris, but that’s a story for another day.
We weren’t there long enough to have a meal, but we did promise each other to come back one day and enjoy that beautiful old port city, where today’s post originates from. So my friends, I give you my version of the classic fish stew, Bouillabaisse.
There are a few essential ingredients that make bouillabaisse what it is, we need fish, and a lovely fish stock. After that, you can get creative with the seafood you have on hand, or what you like. For me that was shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels.
For the stock you need celery, fennel, orange rind, and of course saffron, again adding other spices and vegetables you enjoy, tomatoes, bay leaf, basil, fennel seed, and leeks make a nice addition too. I’ll even let you in on a little secret, feel free to add a bit of chicken stock to your fish stock if you would like it to have a sharper flavor, I don’t know how else to describe it but fish stocks can taste a little soft to me, so I do add a bit of chicken stock just to fortify the taste.
I will admit that I did not make it in the classical tradition as a simmering stew, I wanted each ingredient to remain intact and to taste exactly as it would if eaten separately, so my ingredients were not all combined until the very end. I hope you like it!
There are many different ways to serve bouillabaisse this is just my take on this classic dish, and I do hope you give it a try sometime. And if you love seafood you might like my Paella recipe.