Bouillabaisse is by far one of the best known classic French dishes. It is more than stew many often refer to it as. The rich dish teems with fresh fish and seafood with the classic combination being conger, scorpion fish, sea bass, whiting, monkfish, octopus, crab, spiny lobster, and angler fish, among many other seafood varieties.
Marseille is the recognized home to the famous dish, though it can be found elsewhere, for the authentic and best, then you need to head to the South.
This bouillabaisse recipe is an heirloom recipe dating back 150 years to ancestors in the south of France. This is the original Marseille bouillabaisse, a simple seafood stew fishermen made with their unsalable fish. Many additions have been made to other versions over the years, as cultures intermeshed and exotic ingredients became widely available. This bouillabaisse, on the other hand, is delicious in its simplicity.
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
- 4 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 large bouquet garni
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 large strip orange zest (optional, not in original recipe)
- 1 teaspoon saffron threads (optional, not in original recipe)
- 1 1/2 pound potatoes, cubed
- 12 pounds assorted fresh fish, cleaned and prepared
- Salt, to taste
- Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
- Fresh crusty Baguette, sliced and toasted
- Sauce rouille or aioli, for garnish
In a large stockpot set over medium-low heat, cook the onions in 1/4 cup of the olive oil until they turn translucent and tender, taking special care to make sure they do not burn.
Add the chopped tomatoes, bouquet garni, garlic, orange zest, saffron, and potatoes to the pot. Generously season the vegetables with sea salt and pepper. Do not be afraid to season generously, the fish can take it. The salt will bring out the flavor.
Layer the prepared seafood over the vegetables. Drizzle the seafood with the remaining olive oil and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.
Pour just enough boiling or very hot water over the vegetables and the seafood to cover all the ingredients. Bring the stew to a full, rolling boil for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the soup stand for 5 minutes.
Place the toasted baguette slices in the bottom of soup bowls and ladle the bouillabaisse over the bread. Serve the sauce rouille and/ or aioli on the side or take a spoonful of either and stir into the soup, but do this only if you are sure you really like them, they can sometimes be too strong for milder palettes.
In some areas, the broth would be eaten first, poured over the toasted bread, then the fish and seafood afterward. Both ways are delicious.
This traditional bouillabaisse recipe makes 10 generous servings.
Updated by Elaine Lemm March 2017.