Memories of Marseille & Bouillabaisse

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Not too long ago I read an amazing book all about the summers Julia Child and some of her culinary circle of friends would spend gallivanting around the South of France, eating and drinking. Provence 1970 brings to life Julia, her husband Paul, food writer M.F.K. Fisher, and James Beard among others who during this era were reevaluating their connection to French cuisine and embracing the burgeoning American food scene.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) / Provence 1970

“As we sat outside, under the olive tree in the gentle evening air, I thought about how little had changed in forty years, when it came to making and eating fish stew in Provence with friends. This was where it had all started, for Child, Olney, M.F., Beard, and beck — not their love of France, or of cooking, but their embrace of causal, improvised meals, outdoor eating, and the primacy of fresh herbs and seasonal ingredients. They had found in Provence in the late 1960s and early ’70s a more freewheeling, modern style of cooking, one in which the rules and formalities of haute cuisine had been loosened, in which more ancient traditions — the simple fishermen’s stew, for example — were revered.” 

I fell in love with this book and I’m fascinated with Julia Child (like many of us are), but also James Beard and M.F.K. Fisher. I was so inspired by this book and can’t wait to get my hands on the hoards of books Beard and Fisher wrote. And this book is one that has stayed with me over the past couple weeks.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) /  Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

Side note — Bonnie Slotnick’s in the West Village is my new go-to place for food literature and cookbooks. This is my own personal heaven!

Inspired by the culinary travels of this group of friends, I wanted to try my hand at a Provençal classic, Bouillabaisse, which like most things, I, on a whim, decided I just had to try to make a home! And of course, I wasn’t going to half ass making bouillabaisse so I even made my own home fish stock (we can check that off the ol’ bucket list!).

The perks of volunteering for a fish shop happen to include receiving fish heads and trimmings! This was one of the highlights of my weekend… although no one else in my life seemed to think it was as cool as I did.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) /  Bouillabaisse

I mean look at this guy! He’s huge and so cool!!

This bouillabaisse was surprisingly easy to make and I followed Julia Child’s recipe. I used pollack, shrimp, mussels and scallops though the idea of using eel which Juila does is super interesting to me!

Can we just talk about how amazing Julia is by the way? I love how she just goes to town hacking the fish in this old school French Chef episode. I need to get myself a cleaver! I just wanna be Julia Child when I grow up.

Bouillabaisse

Adapted from Julia Child

2 leeks, minced

1 large onion, finely chopped

½ cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic , sliced

5 tomatoes, quartered

2½ quart water

1 tbsp herbes de provence

1 tsp saffron

1 tablespoon salt

2 large fish heads and frames

1 lb Pollack filet

1 lb day boat scallops

1 lb mussels

½ lb shrimp

Cook the onions and leeks slowly in olive oil for 5 minutes or until almost tender. Stir in the garlic and tomatoes. Raise heat to moderate and cook 5 minutes more. Add the water, herbs, seasonings and fish to the kettle and cook uncovered at a moderate boil for 30 to 40 minutes.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) /  Bouillabaisse

*Due to my limited pot sizes, I split up the two fish heads and ingredients between two pots and combined the soup after the fact.

Strain, pressing juice out of ingredients. Taste carefully for seasoning and strength. It should be delicious at this point, so it will need no further fussing with later.

Bring the stock to a rapid boil 20 minutes before serving. Add the fish, the scallops, mussels, and shrimp and cook until the fish are just tender when pierced with a fork.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) /  Bouillabaisse

Immediately lift out the fish and arrange on the platter. Correct seasoning, and spoon a ladleful of soup over the fish. Serve immediately accompanied by the *optional rouille and toasted bread.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) /  Bouillabaisse

This soup reminds me of Marseille and it’s the perfect end of summer dish. Back in 2009 (so long ago!), I spent a couple days in Marseille. It was magical and I have very fond memories of that trip.

Breakfast in Bed(stuy) /  Marseille

I tried bouillabaisse there for the first time (at a restaurant I don’t remember and hadn’t done any research on). It wasn’t very memorable but cooking bouillabaisse now inspired by Julia and flexing my culinary muscles (making homemade fish stock and all) really makes me miss that town and that experience! One day, I’ll go back, but until then I’ll just live vicariously through the writings and recipes of Julia and her friends.

Bouillabaisse
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 leeks, minced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic , sliced
  • 5 tomatoes, quartered
  • 2½ quart water
  • 1 tbsp herbes de provence
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 large fish heads and frames
  • 1 lb Pollack filet
  • 1 lb day boat scallops
  • 1 lb mussels
  • ½ lb shrimp
Instructions
  1. Cook the onions and leeks slowly in olive oil for 5 minutes or until almost tender. Stir in the garlic and tomatoes. Raise heat to moderate and cook 5 minutes more. Add the water, herbs, seasonings and fish to the kettle and cook uncovered at a moderate boil for 30 to 40 minutes.
  2. Strain, pressing juice out of ingredients. Taste carefully for seasoning and strength. It should be delicious at this point, so it will need no further fussing with later.
  3. Bring the stock to a rapid boil 20 minutes before serving. Add the fish, the scallops, mussels, and shrimp and cook until the fish are just tender when pierced with a fork.
  4. Immediately lift out the fish and arrange on the platter. Correct seasoning, and spoon a ladleful of soup over the fish. Serve immediately accompanied by the *optional rouille and toasted bread.
 

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