BOUILLABAISSE A LA MARSEILLAISE (French seafood stew, for six)
For the soup base:
1 cup sliced onions
1 cup sliced white of leek (or 1 cup more onions)
½ cup olive oil
6 to 8 unpeeled tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
4 to 6 cloves unpeeled garlic, crushed
8 sprigs parsley
½ teaspoon thyme
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
3 big pinches saffron
½ teaspoon dried orange peel
either 2 quarts trimmings from fresh fish or shellfish, 2-1/2 quarts water and 1 tablespoon salt or 1 quart clam juice, 1-1/2 quarts water and no salt
For the fish:
1 pound of whole fish per person, or ½ pound fish fillets, as large a variety as possible
For the rouille:
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 egg yolks
1 dozen large leaves of fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried, or 1 teaspoon thyme or savory
¼ cup canned red pimiento, drained
½ cup fresh bread crumbs (pressed down) from unsweetened white bread
2 to 3 tablespoons hot soup base
2/3 to ¾ cup olive oil
drops of hot pepper sauce or a big pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1. Stir into a kettle or casserole the onions, leeks and olive oil for the soup base. Simmer for 5 minutes without browning. Stir in the tomatoes and garlic and cook 5 minutes more. Then add the rest of the soup base ingredients and bring to a boil. Skim and boil slowly, uncovered, for about 40 minutes.
2. Strain, pressing the juices out of the ingredients, correct seasoning and set aside uncovered. When cool, if you are not proceeding immediately, cover and refrigerate.
3. The soup can be served just as it is, accompanied by rounds of hard-toasted French bread, a bowl of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the rouille described below.
4. If you plan to serve a boulliabaisse rather than the plain soup, about 20 minutes before serving, bring the soup to a rolling boil. Add lobsters and crabs if you are using them, and firm-fleshed fish such as halibut and eel, and boil 5 minutes. Then add other fish (such as cod, hake, perch, flounder) and mussels or scallops. Bring rapidly back to a boil, and boil slowly for 5 minutes. The fish is done when it is opaque and springy rather than squashy – do not overcook.
5. Ladle the fish out onto a large, hot platter and arrange it attractively. Spoon a bit of soup over the fish, decorate both the soup and the fish with chopped parsley, and bring to the table. Serve with croutes and the sauce described below.
6. Make the rouille. Puree the garlic into a small bowl and add the egg yolks and herbs. Pound and stir into a thick, sticky paste. Pound in the pimientos, incorporating thoroughly. Then pound in the bread crumbs, adding drops of soup base to moisten them.
7. When all is thick, sticky and smooth, begin adding oil by droplets, as though you were making a mayonnaise – pound and stir, and change from pestle to a small wire whip while adding the final oil. Beat in the seasonings. Sauce should be thick and strong. Cover airtight until serving time.