Bouillabaise. What do you think of? A rich fish soup? Something involving bouillon cubes? Lots of small portions of very expensive fish and shellfish? ("I'd like a pound of the local haddock, and one of the wild salmon. And two pounds of the mussels. Those are cherrystone clams? OK, two pounds of that, too. That comes to WHAT?") A broth that is more like a stew, featuring garlic, home-grown tomatoes, red wine, shrimp stock, saffron, olive oil, and more?
Well, I created this Sunday dinner treat for two friends we'd invited over for the first time. Patience and Phillip: world travelers, fellow Democrats, word mavens, very fun conversationalists. Managed to pull off the dinner, which included garlic-sauteed green beans, local salad, crusty bread. Got compliments. Finished with Patience's apple crisp (ooh, she peels her apples...) and ice cream.
But what was I thinking when I was savoring the very rich, thick, flavorful soup base? Hmm, you could hide some poison among the poisson. Nobody would ever know. Oh, these mystery writers! Better look for that soup in one of my next books or stories. In the meantime, here's an approximation of my recipe, adapted from both Julia Child and the New Basics cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins.
Max's Bouillabaise (serves 8)
1. Scrub and rinse 2 lbs each mussels and clams. Skin and cut 2-3 lbs fresh fish (different kinds) into 2-inch chunks. Keep all seafood cool.
2. In olive oil, saute 5 chopped leeks, 2 peeled and chopped carrots, and 2 chopped celery stalks until wilted.
3. Add 5 cloves minced garlic and saute for 1 minutes
4. Add 3 c chopped tomatoes, chopped canned whole tomatoes, or frozen local tomatoes, along with 1 qt fish stock, 1 c red wine, 1 bay leaf, 1 tsp dry thyme leaves, ground black pepper, a pinch of saffron.
5. Simmer 20 minutes. Let it cool a little, and then food process until roughly blended (not pureed).
6. Reheat the broth, add the shellfish, and cook covered 10-12 minutes until the shells open. Transfer the shellfish to a warm platter and keep warm.
7. Add 2-3 lbs fresh fish and a pound of scallops.
8. Cook just a few minutes until the fish and scallops are opaque, and transfer fish to the platter.
9. Serve a portion of seafood into each large individual bowl, and then top with the soup, fresh chopped parsley, a piece of toasted French bread spread with al pesto sauce, and a dollop of red pepper rouille.
And did you know the name comes from the Occitan language? Wikipedia tells us, "Occitan is a Romance language spoken in Southern France, the Occitan Valleys of Italy, Monaco, and in Val d'Aran in Catalonia, Spain, the regions sometimes known informally as Occitania. It is also spoken in the linguistic enclave of Guardia Piemontese (Calabria, Italy). It is an official language in Catalonia (known as Aranese in Val d'Aran).Modern Occitan is the closest relative of Catalan." I bet Lauren Rousseau knows that.
What's your favorite dish to hide poison in, fictionally speaking, of course?