This is not Julia Child’s bouillabaisse

I have to apologize to Angie and all her lovely guests.  I missed Fiesta Friday last week for a very selfish reason: I needed a break from the blogosphere.  Sometimes you just want to go back to your little introverted life and do completely ordinary things (and not blog about it).  I ended up doing yard work last weekend, which is quite ordinary but surprisingly relaxing.

Also, I’m tired.  So, so tired.  I can’t imagine what things will be like in the fall – it will be the first semester that I will be teaching, working full time in the field, and helping DP with his newly opened gym…all at the same time, rather than two of the three.  I often ask Noonie, how do busy people manage to have kids?

Yikes!  I can’t allow myself to get caught up in future thoughts, not when there is bouillabaisse to be made.

I haven’t prepared this recipe in a long time; each time I do, it’s a little bit different.  I always aspire to make it correctly – you know, with 5 types of fish, saffron, rouille, and fish stock.  But the cost involved was astronomical in my eyes, considering I was a broke college student when I first started making it.

This is how it always happens: I walk up to the seafood section of the grocery store, eyes a-gleaming, eager to snatch up a rich assortment of fruits de mer.  After just a minute of perusing, I quickly realize my dreams are bigger than my wallet.  I grab the cheapest filet, half a pound of shrimp, and a handful of mussels.  Then I slink away with my tail tucked between my legs.  When I serve DP a bowl, I apologize for not thinking he is worth the full cost of a proper bouillabaisse.  He shrugs and hoovers down a couple servings because he doesn’t know the difference/couldn’t care less – as long as he’s fed.

But this time, I live in a city of fishmongers!  Also, I have joined the legion of the gainfully employed (depending on your definition of “gainfully”).  I figure I’m at least twice as likely to make better bouillabaisse than ever before.

Is tonight the night?  Will glory be mine at last?

I found  the following recipe from Food & Wine and made some alterations.  I had bai kee-hoot but no bay leaves, so in the spirit of “use what you have,” it became Southeast Asian-French fusion.  After much consideration, I did not make a rouille because it just seems superfluous (sorry, Frenchies).  Serving with a crusty baguette is just as tasty and saves time.


You wouldn’t believe what I went through to find these ingredients! The fishmonger closest to the gym didn’t have a lot of filet options, and it was a bit pricy for my cheap self.  A 300-pound man with an eye patch talked loudly over me.  I couldn’t find fish stock and didn’t have time to make any, so I substituted with vegetable stock, clam juice, and minced anchovies.  Only one grocery store in town had fennel – I almost gave up!  But I pushed on.  For you, Fiesta Friday fans, I ran out of the gym without stretching in order to scrounge up these ingredients.

You are more than welcome to try your hand at Julia Child’s recipe (she doesn’t use rouille either).  As for me, I’m not trying to impress any French chefs – just a guy who eats peanut butter sandwiches for a week straight when I’m out of town.

Poor Crasian’s Bouillabaisse

– 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
– 2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
– 1 fennel bulb, cored and diced
– 2-3 bai kee-hoot (or bay leaves)
– 1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano
– 2 Thai chili peppers (more if you want extra heat)
– 4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
– 2 tomatoes, diced
– 5 cups fish stock
– Any variety of fresh fish and seafood that you find affordable/reasonable/seasonal

1. In a medium pot, heat olive oil.  Add leeks, fennel, and chopped garlic and cook over medium heat, until translucent.  Add tomatoes and cook until they start to break down.  Add bai kee-hoot, oregano, basil, and chili peppers.

2. Add fish stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce to simmer.  Cook over low heat until vegetables are tender.  Discard bai kee-hoot and chilies.

3.  I do not puree and strain the broth.  It seems like a total waste of fennel and leeks.  You may choose to strain, as per the original recipe.

4. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Add the seafood.  Clams and mussels should go first, then fish, then the shrimp.  Bivalves should open completely and shrimp should be light pink.  Fish should not be translucent.

6. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve with a toasted slice of baguette.


28 thoughts on “This is not Julia Child’s bouillabaisse”

  1. I made a bouillabaisse once for dinner with company. Must have been people I felt I needed to impress. Not sure if it was Julia’s recipe or not, but it was very very good. Everybody loved it. But your version might even be better. Dang, you can cook if you want to! K lime leaves (I hear that k word is a derogatory word in S Africa and I use it, too, in my recipes, but maybe I should look for a substitute word) and Thai chilies make this stew/soup sound very appetizing to me. I’m going to borrow.

    No need to apologize. Taking a break from blogging and doing yard sound therapeutic. I might just do the same. 🙂

    1. Borrow away! I also read that the “k” word is derogatory. I just figured it was the name most people recognized, but I should edit that. The other option is to call it by its Lao name: bai kee-hoot.

      You, Miss Lady, definitely need a break. I love Fiesta Friday, but you must spend so much time linking, liking, commenting, pinging, and creating your own party favors. I suggest a spa day. 🙂

      1. You left out guest blogging! I’m doing a couple right now, and emails are getting up there with questions I shouldn’t even be answering. I think people mistake me for an expert or something. All the joys of blogging. Thanks for the suggested name.

      2. See – I couldn’t even remember to list all of your duties! Too many. I can see why people think you’re an expert – when I first went to your page, I thought you were a professional event planner. haha

  2. Noony, I totally get that you need a break from blogging sometimes! It can be really intense, especially with all the other stuff that life is flinging at us. Your recipe looks so delicious, so take a break, but don’t stop all together!! 🙂

    1. It’s been fun so far, but I have to remind myself that it’s not a job and that I didn’t start my blog to get tons of readership. The best thing has been meeting so many different people with so many inspiring ideas!

  3. This looks and sounds great! I’ve yet to make it, for similar reasons (also hubby isn’t that into mussels or shrimps, hmm). Sometimes it can be very restful to take a break from blogging!

    1. I couldn’t survive without seafood – it’s the only “meat” I eat. Fortunately, my significant other loves seafood just as much. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. This dish looks wonderful and I’m sure your husband appreciates all the effort into getting the ingredients for this dish. I understand what you mean when you said you needed a little break away from the blog world. Sometimes life is so overwhelming, I need to detach and spend some time away from the virtual world. I hope you got to relax a bit, Noony!

    1. Well…I didn’t relax. Actually, I did the complete opposite – I was literally doing task after task all weekend. But I got so much done, and it was very satisfying. 🙂 Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

      1. Oh I just meant I hoped you could relax from the blog world. I saw how busy you are–helping your husband and working! It always feels nonstop, doesn’t it? I had a nice weekend, thanks, but daylight savings threw a wrench in my sleeping pattern. Hope you have a good weekend too!

  5. Sounds like you have a full plate, thanks for taking the time to share a lovely bouillabaisse. As gir needing to ckear out the walket fir success, think of it as a good braised meat dish; the cheaper cuts can be exquisite after a long hot bath.

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