This superb French institution makes an unconscionably good meal--this particular recipe for 8 people. Compare Thackeray's unabashed rhapsodic ballad with Norman Douglas's corner-of-the-mouth remark:
The Ballad of Bouillabaisse
A street there is in Paris famous,
For which no rhyme our language yields,
Rue Neuve des Petit Champs its name is--
The New Street of the Little Fields.
And here's an inn, not rich and splendid
But still in comfortable ease;
The which I oft in youth attended,
To eat a bowl of Bouillabaisse.
This Bouillabaisse a noble dish is--
A sort of soup, or broth, or brew,
Or hotchpotch of all sorts of fishes,
That Greenwich never could outdo:
Green herbs, red peppers, mussels, saffron,
Soles, onion, garlic, roach, and dace:
All these you eat at Terre's tavern
in that one dish of Bouillabaisse.
Indeed a rich a savory stew 'tis;
And true philosophers, methinks,
Who love all sorts of natural beauties,
Should love good victuals and good drinks.
And Cordelier or Benedictine
Might gladly, sure, his lot embrace,
Nor find a fast day too afflicting,
Which served him up a Bouillabaisse.
Now here's Norman Douglas, author of the febrile South Wind: "Bouillabaisse is only good because cooked by the French, who, if they cared to try, could produce an excellent and nutritious substitute out of cigar stumps and empty match boxes."
And, for heaven's sake, don't fail to read either Joseph Mery's "Recipe for Bouillabaisse or John Lanchester's riff on it and other fish soups in A Debt to Pleasure.
Garnish: croutons fried in garlic-flavored oil
- 3 lbs. of fish (any combination of eel, haddock, red snapper, bass, monkfish, etc.), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 3 lbs. lobster, broken into pieces
- 3 dozen mussels, washed and beards removed
- 3 leeks, slivered
- 2 onions, chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- bouquet garni of thyme, bay leaf, parsley, and rosemary
- meaty pinch of saffron, heated and crumbled
- salt and pepper
Heat the oil in a Dutch oven and add leeks, onions, garlic, and tomatoes--cooking over a low heat for at least 15 minutes. Add the bouquet garni and the heavy pieces of fish--cook gently for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining fish, lobster, and saffron and cover with water (or fish stock). Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne, and bring to a boil. Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, then add the mussels and cook until they open their shells.
When ready to serve, strain the ingredients into a serving dish then pour the hot broth over top. Serve the croutons separately.