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Bouillabaisse

Here is what I know about Bouillabaisse: I don’t remember a Christmas Eve dinner where we ate something else. Sure, I know in my tyrant child days I wouldn’t touch the stuff, and I honestly probably ate dinner rolls and chocolate…but luckily I don’t remember those days all too well. I seriously can’t remember anything else we ever made for the day, and it’s time the recipe lives on.

Another thing: It’s always called Bouillabaisse, not Cioppino, not “Seafood Stew.” All are about the same thing, and my mom just chooses to call it the most fun and hardest to spell name of all.

Bouillabaisse

Typically, people throw scallops into their Bouillabaisse, but we have never been big on them in our family so we always leave them out and add more of the “good stuff.” Shrimp, Crab, Clams, and either halibut or salmon are usually our picks. You can treat this recipe as more of a guide than anything. We tweak our recipe a little bit each year – especially the time my dad dumped an ENTIRE jar of red pepper flakes into the soup…The lid wasn’t on tight enough…and some of our guests ended up eating Kraft Mac N Cheese. Shit happens…Especially on Christmas Eve.

We always serve our Bouillabaisse with some sort of delicious bread for dipping – this year we made parmesan thyme popovers in a new popover pan I gifted to Lulu, and they were SUPER yum. Also on the menu is her classic Caesar salad and some sort of traditional Yule Log for dessert. This meal only comes once a year – I couldn’t really imagine eating Bouillabaisse at any other time!

Disclaimer: I have always wanted to post this recipe, but during the busy holidays (and eternal darkness) I have never been able to get a really good photo. This year, I said screw it, it’s time to blog it. I hope to give it an update every year, but we’ll see about that…

Recipe
Bouillabaisse
by Baked Northwest (a Lulu Classic)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice (you can use both, if you want to go for a Christmas-y look)!
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups dry red wine or white wine (We have tried both in the past and either choice is excellent. It’s all about personal preference here).
  • 1 (28- to 32-ounces) can whole plum tomatoes, drained, reserving juice, and chopped
  • 3 cups bottled clam juice (can sub chicken or veggie broth in a pinch. Or can sub half clam juice, half chicken stock. We think the clam juice is essential).
  • 1 (1-pound) king crab leg, thawed if frozen
  • 18 small (2-inch) hard-shelled clams (1 1/2 pound) such as littlenecks, scrubbed
  • 1 pound skinless red snapper, halibut, or salmon fillets, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (Use whatever you prefer, and whatever is freshest at the market).
  • 1 pound large shrimp (16 to 20), shelled (tails and bottom segment of shells left intact) and deveined
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil

To Garnish: shredded fresh basil leaves and small whole leaves
To Dip: focaccia or sourdough bread. We made popovers this year and they were perfect!

Directions

Cook garlic, onions, bay leaf, oregano, and red pepper flakes with salt and pepper in oil in an 8-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring, until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell pepper and tomato paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and boil until reduced by about half, 5 to 6 minutes. Add tomatoes with their juice, clam juice, and broth and simmer, covered, 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

While stew is simmering, hack crab leg through shell into 2- to 3-inch pieces with a large heavy knife. You can also cook the crab in the stew, leaving the crab legs in.  Add crab pieces and clams to stew and simmer, covered, until clams just open, 5 to 10 minutes, checking every minute after 5 minutes and transferring opened clams to a bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon. (Discard any unopened clams after 10 minutes.) Lightly season fish fillets and shrimp with salt and add to stew, then simmer, covered, until just cooked through, about 5 minutes. Discard bay leaf, then return clams to pot and gently stir in parsley and basil.

Serve Bouillabaisse immediately in large soup bowls.

Note: The stew — without seafood — can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, uncovered, then chill, covered. Bring to a simmer before adding seafood.

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