Monday, March 26, 2018

Celebrating with Bouillabaisse #FoodieReads

Last week, the Enthusiastic Kithchen Elf and I were playing a foodie trivia game. I won, but he held his own; he did complain that I had an advantage with the questions about wine and liqueurs. Probably true. But he knew more about celebrity chefs than I did!

One of the questions was about the seafood-based stew from France. He talked about Moqueca from Brazil and Cioppino from San Francisco, but couldn't come up with the name of the one from France. So, I told him I'd make it for him this weekend. And I figured it would be the perfect celebration dinner for Jake's and my 18th wedding anniversary. It was!

It just so happened that this dish was mentioned in Cooking for Picasso: A Novel by Camille Aubray.* I had originally picked up this book as it was supposed to be one of our Cook the Books' selections for the year, but the hostesses swapped it out for another. So, I picked it up yesterday while everyone else worked on school projects. I crawled under the covers, devoured the entire book, and made a Cooking for Picasso-inspired dish for my anniversary dinner.

On the Page
This was a quick, fun read. While I was just complaining about authors spanning different locations and times as an overused literary device, this book does it seamlessly and beautifully. First we have Ondine, as a teenager in Juan-les-Pins, in southeastern France, on the Côte d'Azur. She delivers food to visiting artist Pablo Picasso who is hiding out there under the nome de guerre, M. Ruiz. Then we have Ondine's grandaughter, Céline, who travels back to France to solve a mystery. That's all I'll say about the plot.

I thoroughly savored the descriptions of food, contemplated the art and life of Picasso, and enjoyed an armchair jaunt around the south of France. Yes, there were some stereotypical characters and predictable storylines, but it was fast-paced and enjoyable.

About Ondine's first love... "The boy was named Luc.... Ondine sneaked food to him, usually some savory tartelettes made of her best pastry and whatever nourishing bits of meat and vegetables she could find. Luc was always hungry, yet he showed his gratitude not by wolfing down what she gave him, but by eating slowly, deliberately, reverentially. Ondine loved to place food into his strong, confident hands and then watch him lift it to his eager mouth" (pg. 16).

About a baked goods (when Céline is taking a cooking class)... "A baguette dough, a puff pastry made of folded multi-layers of butter and flour, a cake made of almond flour, and cookies of ground hazelnuts. The whole experience turned out to be so unexpectedly sensual - the warm yeasty scent of bread rising, and the soft, fleshy dough yielding beneath our kneading touch" (pg. 193).

In the Bowl
Bouillabaisse is France's classic Mediterranean fisherman's stew. From what I read, to be considered a classic bouillabaise the fish needs to be fresh, local, and at least five different kinds included. I love that the broth has orange peel, saffron, and fennel. I could see Grandma Ondine cooking this for Picasso!

  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, diced with fronds reserved for garnish, approximately 2 C
  • 2 leeks, white parts only, trimmed and diced, approximately 2 C
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed
  • 2 C diced tomatoes
  • 5 C vegetable stock
  • 1 C water
  • 1 C dry white wine (I used Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • peel from 1 organic orange (I used a Cara Cara)
  • pinch of saffron threads
  • pinch of chili flakes or cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound clams (I used Littleneck)
  • 1 pound squid, cleaned
  • 3/4 pound salmon (I used wild Coho)
  • 3/4 pound mussels
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • fresh herbs for garnish (I used parsley and the fronds from the fennel)

In a Dutch oven or heavy lidded pot, melt butter in olive oil. Add in the fennel and leeks. Sweat until they are tender, but not browned, approximately 15 to 18 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until they begin to lose their shape, approximately 5 minutes. Pour in the wine. And bring to a boil. Boil until the liquid is reduced by half, then pour in the stock and water. Add in the orange peel, bay leaves, saffron, and chili flakes. Bring to a boil again, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Now, add in the seafood: first, the salmon; then the mussels and clams. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes before adding in the squid and shrimp. Simmer until the shrimp is just cooked through at the shellfish is open. This took about 10 minutes total from adding the salmon till the clams opened. Stir in the lemon juice and adjust seasoning to taste. You may think it needs more salt, pepper, and chili flakes.

Remove from heat and ladle into individual serving bowls. Garnish with parsley and fennel. Serve immediately.

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Here's what everyone else read in March 2018: here.


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