Posted by: njbrown | November 23, 2009

Free-style bouillabaisse

November 23, 2009

After seeing Julia’s first show on bouillabaisse, I had no desire to ever make it.  For those who never saw it, she included small, whole fish – apparently the authentic French way – but I’ve never liked having my food stare back at me from my plate.

However, Michael Smith – Canada’s own 6’7″ chef from Prince Edward Island – did a free-style version on his show recently that gave me the confidence to try.  This push was combined with finding a recipe brochure written by the New Bedford Seafood Council Inc. that my mother had sent me in 1977.  In the brochure under the heading “Foreign Flavor” was the recipe for “New Bedford Bouillabaisse…a little of everything makes it good.”  New Bedford’s glory days had been in the whaling era of the early 1800s, and by the mid-twentieth century, it had little glory of any kind.  I certainly didn’t perceive it as a place of gastronomic sophistication.  However, the note to the recipe says:  “In France the fish and shellfish are arranged on a platter.  A slice of toasted French bread is placed in each soup dish and the soup is poured over it.  Diners help themselves to fish and shellfish on individual plates.  In our version, soup and fish are served together and the French bread can be put into the soup place or served separately.”  This recipe called for cod (a very New Bedford kind of fish), scallops and perch, and even included saffron.

I decided to combine the Michael Smith approach and the New Bedford one to use fish I enjoy.  George asked if I would include calamari and octopus , and I gave him a resounding, “no” (since I don’t like food with tentacles).  But, because he is a very good husband, I agreed to add the ingredients he wanted to his portion.  So our bouillabaisse was made with equal parts of clam juice and dry white wine, canned tomatoes, halibut, bay scallops and shrimp (and calamari, octopus, mussels).  I found Old Bay Seasoning in the store, and used it for the first time – cautiously- along with thyme, garlic and the usual seasonings.  (I was unable to find real saffron, and the “American saffron” I bought at less than $3.00 for a large container had neither taste nor color when I tried adding it to water.)  Both of us found the broth superb and the scallops wonderfully tender.  George thought the halibut was a waste of money.  (I thought it was fine, and it supplied the firm fish element that is traditional.)  Having really enjoyed it, I will certainly be making it again, but never with whole fish.




  1. Hi,I am new here! looks so great,I think I will learn more from here!
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  2. hey

    just registered and put on my todo list

    hopefully this is just what im looking for looks like i have a lot to read.

    • I hope it is too.

      Best wishes, and bon appetit!


  3. finally, I found this post once more. You have few useful tips for my school project. Now, I won’t forget to bookmark it. 🙂

    • Glad you found me again. Always glad to help with school projects.


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