Creole Bouillabaisse

Air date: March 6, 2018

Prep Time: 1 and a half hours

Yields: 12 servings

Comment:

This is the Creole seafood soup that drew tribute from the famous English novelist, William Makepeace Thackeray. In his Roundabout Papers, Thackeray recalls, "In New Orleans you can eat a Bouillabaisse, the like of which was never eaten in Marseilles or Paris." The reason is clear: the fish and shellfish from the Mediterranean Sea simply could not match the flavor and quality of those from the Gulf of Mexico, especially our redfish, snapper, crab and shrimp. The word "bouillabaisse" comes from the term "to boil" and then "to stop boiling." In other words, when the soup comes to a boil, immediately remove it from the fire and allow the ingredients to poach gently. This was the original technique in making the soup.

Ingredients:

12 (4-ounce) redfish or other firm fish fillets

4 dozen mussels

1 pound crawfish tails

2 dozen (21–25 count) shrimp, peeled and head-on

1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat

2 tbsps saffron threads

1 cup olive oil

2 cups diced onions

1 cup diced celery

¼ cup diced red bell pepper

¼ cup diced green bell pepper

¼ cup diced yellow bell pepper

1 cup finely minced carrots

¼ cup thinly sliced garlic

2 fresh bay leaves

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with liquid

1 gallon water or seafood stock

1 cup dry white wine

salt and cayenne pepper to taste

granulated garlic to taste

½ cup thinly sliced green onions

½ cup chopped parsley

1 tbsp fresh-chopped thyme leaves

1 tbsp fresh-chopped tarragon

1½ cups prepared garlic butter

24 (½-inch) slices French bread crostini, cut on the bias

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Place saffron threads in a small cup and cover with ½ cup water. Place in microwave and heat on high for 30 seconds. Remove from microwave, quickly cover with clear wrap, and set aside to steep. In a 2-gallon stockpot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and bell peppers then sauté 3–5 minutes, stirring constantly. Add carrots and sliced garlic, then cook 3–5 additional minutes, stirring often. Add steeped saffron mixture, bay leaves, tomato with liquid, stock, and wine. Bring mixture to a rolling boil then reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste using salt, cayenne pepper and granulated garlic. Add green onions, parsley, thyme, and tarragon then cook 5–7 minutes. Layer fish fillets, mussels, crawfish, shrimp, and crabmeat into stock mixture. Return to a low simmer, cover, and cook 12–15 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste using salt, pepper, and granulated garlic. Do not stir during cooking process. When seafood is cooking, spread garlic butter onto crostini. Toast in oven until slightly browned around the edges. Set aside. When ready to serve, using a slotted spoon, gently remove shrimp and mussels then transfer to a large bowl. Using a spatula, work quickly to transfer fish to a plate, taking care not to break fillets. To serve, place an equal amount of seafood in each of the 12 soup bowls, beginning with shellfish and ending with fish fillet on top. Ladle 6 ounces of simmering stock mixture over seafood into each bowl. Top each portion with a slice of buttered crostini and serve with additional slice on the side.