Bouillabaisse

When I first moved out on my own after college and had to cook for myself seafood bouillabaisse was one of the first things I taught myself how to make. Don’t be too impressed with me. There was a local market that sold a spice pack with easy directions. It was two steps away from opening a Campbell’s soup can.

In the years since, I’ve moved cities, moved closer to fresher produce and seafood, and my cooking skills greatly improved. In the meantime, I still kept the label from the spice pack so that I could see the list of herbs and spices. After much experimentation, researching of other bouillabaisse recipes, and a lot of my own tweaking, I share with you my French Seafood soup: bouillabaisse.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups white wine
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 cups of chicken stock
  • 6 small red potatoes, quartered
  • 3-5 different types of seafood: my favorites are 1/2 pound each of shrimp, bay scallops, mussels, tilapia, and clams
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Directions

  1. In a 4-6quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, garlic, celery, and 1/2 of the basil, paprika, and thyme.
  2. Add wine, tomatoes, green pepper, bay leaves, cayenne, and the remaining basil, paprika, and thyme. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add chicken stock and potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the potatoes are cooked, about 20 minutes.
  4. Add seafood and simmer until the mussels and/or clams shell open, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add parsley and salt and pepper to taste and serve.

How Not to Screw It Up

  1. This recipe takes a lot of patience with chopping things. I’ve found that its far easier to make this soup if you chop everything first (a good suggestion for any recipe, but essential with this one if you hate chopping).
  2. Put the money and effort into getting a variety of seafood. It really makes the bouillabaisse better, and is really what this soup is all about anyway.
  3. Do not overcook the seafood! You only need to simmer the seafood long enough for the shells of the mussels and clams to open. Any more than that and you will have gummy, yucky, fish. It takes away all of the flavor that the seafood is supposed to provide.
  4. You can adjust the spiciness of this recipe by adding more cayenne in step #2. If you want something spicier than what I’ve outlined here, go ahead and add 1/2 teaspoon.