I spent this past week on the Cape with my friend Tracey. We slept in, spent the days reading, writing, and walking on the beach when we were not hunkered down preparing for Snowpocalypse. I'd never been on the beach in a winter coat, but this confirmed my love for vacation destinations in the off season. As such, we had to try a couple places before we found a fishmonger who was open, but we hit the jackpot. Planning to make my parent's version of bouillabaisse, we bought local steamers, monkfish, and bay scallops. When buying seafood, I try to adhere to the advice of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and buy seafood that is sustainably raised or fished. I totally failed by using the monkfish (lesson learned), but swapped in tilapia the second time I made it. In reality, you can come up with any combination of seafood for the soup: mussels, shrimp, other kinds of fish. Just try to buy whatever is fresh and sustainable!
For those who like a milder dish, omit the roux, which is wonderfully spicy and has quite a kick. Usually a roux is made to thicken a soup or sauce at the very beginning of preparation. Here, I add the roux at the end to round out the flavors of the soup.
I just submitted this recipe to the food52 contest of the week. I'm totally enamored with this website's project, spearheaded by the inimitable Amanda Hesser and her fellow foodie writer Merrill Stubbs: collect the best recipes for classic dishes from home cooks. Definitely check it out when you have a moment!
Bouillabaisse with Garlic Roux
For the bouillabaisse:
2 T olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
2 russet potatoes, thinly sliced
3 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 bouillon cube (optional)
1 1/4 lb fresh white fish, cut into slightly larger than bite size pieces
8 live medium-sized clams, soaked in a bowl of water before cooking
For the roux:
2 garlic cloves, as finely minced as possible
1/3 c fresh bread crumbs
1/2 t chili flakes
1/2 t salt (increase to 1 t if not using bouillon cube)
1 T olive oil
In a large soup pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium high heat until fragrant. Add the fennel and continue to saute until slightly softened. Add the potatoes and cook for about a minute. Add 6 cups of water and turn up heat to high. When boiling, add tomatoes and bullion cube and reduce heat. Simmer until potatoes and tomatoes are cooked through.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the roux ingredients and mix with a spoon. Add about 2 T of broth from the soup to soften. Set aside.
When you are ready to eat, raise heat to bring soup back to a gentle boil. Add clams and cook until they have opened wide (about 3-4 minutes). Remove to a separate bowl. Add scallops, followed by the fish. These will cook very quickly. Taste test after about 1 minute for doneness. When fish is done, place clams back in the pot. Serve in large soup bowls letting guests add as much roux as they like. Make sure to have a crusty loaf of bread to serve as well!