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Zox Kitchen

Zox Kitchen: July 4, 2013

Bastille Day Calls For Bouillabaisse

Bastille Day is the national holiday of France on July 14. Formally called La Fete Nationale, the day commemorates the 1790 first anniversary of the storming of Bastille fortress-prison on the Champs-Élysées Avenue in Paris. Many cities in the United States celebrate the holiday including New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Seattle, St. Louis and Minneapolis among many others.

My French friend Theo does not celebrate Bastille Day but others in his family do, including his sister and mother. But truth be told, the holiday is just another excuse for his entire family to cook and eat well. It’s always delicious and more than enough for everyone. Years ago I joined Theo and his family for Christmas. I was told a French Christmas was an even more festive occasion so of course I accepted the “moveable feast” — including an elegant dinner on Christmas Eve, and an all-day feast on Christmas day. The French like to eat. And Bastille Day is barely less elaborate. Since it’s a summertime holiday, bouillabaisse is considered a classic warm weather occasion and one that is generally low in fat and memorably delicious — especially for seafood lovers.

Bouillabaisse

Serves 6

(Inspired by the NYT’s Cookbook Author, Amanda Hesser)

This version of bouillabaisse is refreshingly easy to make. Amanda Hesser of The New York Times tells us “it is meant to contain a bunch of fish (cut into 2-inch pieces), olive oil, and water, and is not supposed to take three days to make.” There is some controversy surrounding the dish however. Some say it is a soup. Others argue that it’s not since the broth and the solids are eaten separately. Still others call it a stew but probably not, since stew is eaten slowly and bouillabaisse is boiled so that it achieves a combination of olive oil, water and wine. I personally like the version Hesser makes because it doesn’t take as long while making a “rich and rustic oily broth.” This version calls for equal parts of water and oil and half the amount of wine. It’s delicious if you like fish–fresh fish in particular. And interestingly it is the version that is over 100 years old. The more recent 21st-century version is more complex and not worth the time and trouble.

Ingredients

• 1 cup olive oil

• 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored, seeded and sliced

• 1 small onion, thinly sliced

• 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

• 2 pinches saffron threads

• 1 bay leaf

• 4 sprigs parsley

• 2 cloves garlic

• 1 pound each cut into 2-inch pieces, skinless and boneless cod, halibut, and sea bass (one or two of the following may be substituted: skinless fluke, founder).

• 2 cups or about 1 pound peeled, deveined medium shrimp

• Juice of ½ lemon     

• Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

• 1 cup voulet (fish broth) or clam broth

• 1 cup dry white wine

• 6 slices of ciabatta bread or thin sliced baguette — pouring ½ cup extra virgin olive oil on each slice before toasting

Method

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the tomatoes, onion, carrot, 1 pinch saffron, bay leaf, and 1 crushed garlic clove. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the fish, shrimp, and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper to taste. Boil for 10 minutes.

Add the fish or clam broth, bring to a rapid simmer until the fish is just cooked through. Adjust the seasoning, adding remaining saffron, lemon juice, salt and pepper as you like. Rub the toasts with the remaining garlic clove. Ladle the bouillabaisse into six large soup bowls with one slice of toasted ciabatta toast or 2-3 toasted baguette slices leaning against the side of each bowl. Some people like to place the toast into the bottom of the bowl with bouillabaisse poured on top.

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