Bouillabaisse


*A charter signed by 11 restaurants dictates the certain kinds of fish that constitute an authentic bouillabaisse. Since many of those fish are not available in the United States, it is recommended to use the freshest, non-oily fish you can find*

For croutons
12 to 16 (1/2-inch-thick) baguette slices
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, halved

For soup
1 (1- to 1 1/4-lb) live lobster
2 large tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb boiling potatoes
1/3 cup finely chopped fennel fronds (sometimes called anise)
1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
11/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
9 cups white fish stock
3 lb mixed skinned white fish fillets (such as monkfish, turbot, red snapper, striped bass, porgy, grouper, and/or cod), cut into 2-inch pieces

For Rouille
3 tablespoons water
3/4 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs (preferably from a baguette, crust removed)
3 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Make Rouille:
Pour water over bread crumbs in a bowl. Mash garlic to a paste with sea salt and cayenne using a mortar and pestle (see cooks' note, below). Add moistened bread crumbs and mash into garlic paste.
Add oil in a slow stream, mashing and stirring vigorously with pestle until combined well.

Make croutons:
Preheat oven to 250°F.
Arrange bread slices in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan and brush both sides with oil. Bake in middle of oven until crisp, about 30 minutes. Rub 1 side of each toast with a cut side of garlic.

Make soup:
Plunge lobster headfirst into a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling water, then cook, covered, 2 minutes from time lobster enters water. Transfer lobster with tongs to a colander and let stand until cool enough to handle. Discard hot water in pot. Put lobster in a shallow baking pan. Twist off claws with knuckles from body, then crack claws with a mallet or rolling pin and separate claws from knuckles. Halve body and tail lengthwise through shell with kitchen shears, then cut crosswise through shell into 2-inch pieces. Reserve lobster juices that accumulate in baking pan.

Cook tomatoes, onion, and garlic in oil in cleaned 6- to 8-quart pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Stir potatoes into tomatoes with fennel fronds, bay leaf, saffron, sea salt, and pepper. Add stock and bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add thicker pieces of fish to soup and simmer, uncovered, 2 minutes. Stir in remaining fish and lobster, including juices, and simmer, uncovered, until they are just cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes.
Stir 3 tablespoons broth from soup into rouille until blended. Arrange 2 croutons in each of 6 to 8 deep soup bowls. Carefully transfer fish and lobster from soup to croutons with a slotted spoon, then ladle some broth with vegetables over seafood.

Top each serving with 1 teaspoon rouille and serve remainder on the side.

Makes 6-8 servings
Adapted from Gourmet July 2002