There is such strong and widely varied opinion regarding the criteria for a true bouillabaisse that any recipe so labelled is bound to invite attack. In fact, this one might more accurately be called a "bourride",  and a still safer title would be "fish soup". On the other hand, a certain measure of contempt for French sensibilities is fashionable these days.

But while the  requisite  or acceptable species for a bouillabaisse remain uncertain, it is clear that the wider the variety of fish, the more interesting the result. Moreover, it is important to achieve a balance between white fish, e.g., snapper, whiting, and sole, and somewhat richer varieties, such as redfish and striped bass. I find that monkfish, a species that may be thought of as Mediterranean but is generally available here, works particularly well. I also like to use shrimp; additional shellfishes,  prescribed by some commentators, are optional. In any case, start with whole fish whenever possible, as they are likely to be fresher than ready filets, and you'll need the bones for stock. 

The rouille, a spicy garlic mayonnaise, is an essential component of this dish. I like to add a spoonful to each bowl before serving, and pass the rest at the table with a baguette. 

  • 5 lb. assorted fish filets 
  • 1 large onion 
  • 2 leeks 
  • 2 stalks celery 
  • 1 head fennel 
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped 
  • Olive oil 
  • 8 cloves or more garlic, crushed 
  • Zest of 1 orange, grated and chopped 
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, ground 
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron 
  • Bouquet garni of thyme, bay, and parsley 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste 
  • 2 tablespoon anise liqueur 
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped 
  • 2 quarts fish stock 
  • 1 cup rouille 
  • 1 baguette 

Cut the filets into chunks and marinate for several hours in 2 cloves minced garlic, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of saffron. 

Chop the onion, leeks, celery, and fennel and sauté with the saffron in olive oil. Add the tomatoes, the remaining garlic, the bouquet garni, orange zest, fennel seed, and stock, and simmer for 1 hour. Remove most of the solids with a slotted spoon. 

Fifteen minutes before serving, bring to a boil, add the richer fishes, cook for five minutes, add the remaining fish, and cook 5 minutes more. Add the tomato paste and liqueur for the final 5 minutes. Pour into a tureen and sprinkle with parsley. Place a toasted slice of bagurtte covered with a dollop of rouille on the bottom of each bowl before filling with soup. Serve with remaining bread and rouille. 

Fish Stock
  • 2 pounds fish head and bones 
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 1 cup white wine
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Parsley stems

Peel and slice the onion. Sauté it with the fish bones and heads in butter and oil. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for one hour. 

  • 2 egg yolks 
  • 1 cup olive oil 
  • 1 slice white bread
  • 1 garlic bulb
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Tabasco and salt to taste 

Trim the crust from the bread, soak it in milk, and squeeze out most of it. Mince the garlic and salt to a paste. Beat the egg yolks in a bowl and mix in the bread and garlic. Add the oil slowly, whisking continually, to form an emulsion. Add tabasco to taste (the sauce should be quite hot).