Seafood Bouillabaisse

According to tradition, there should be at least five different kinds of fish in a proper bouillabaisse. In Marseille, considered the mecca of bouillabaisse, they use at least seven, not counting the shellfish. The fish should be extremely fresh – caught and cooked the same day. If you cannot get extremely fresh fish, then the next best alternative is quick-frozen – fish are frozen the same day it was caught. Use as many different types of fish as you can, such as fillets of flounder, haddock, cod, perch, white fish, whiting, porgies, bluefish, bass – almost any combination. Count on at least three kinds to serve six.


  • 3 pounds of at least 3 different kinds of fish fillets, fresh or quick frozen (thaw first)
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 1-2 pounds of Oysters, clams, or mussels
  • 1 cup cooked shrimp, crab, or lobster meat, or rock lobster tails
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 4 Shallots, thinly sliced OR the white parts of 2 or 3 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 large tomato, chopped, or 1/2 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1 sweet red pepper, chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 2-inch slice of fennel or 1 teaspoon of fennel seed
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-3 whole cloves
  • Zest of half an orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon powdered saffron
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup clam juice or fish broth
  • 2 Tbps lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup white wine
  • Sliced French bread


1 Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large (6-qt) saucepan. When it is hot, add onions and shallots (or leeks). Sauté for a minute, then add crushed garlic (more or less to taste), and sweet red pepper. Add tomato, celery, and fennel. Stir the vegetables into the oil with a wooden spoon until well coated. Then add another 1/4 cup of olive oil, thyme, bay leaf, cloves, and the orange zest. Cook until the onion is soft and golden but not brown.

2 Cut fish fillets into 2-inch pieces. Add the pieces of fish and 2 cups of water to the vegetable mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes. Add oysters, clams, or mussels (though these may be omitted if desired) and shrimp, crabmeat, or lobster tails, cut into pieces or left whole.

3 Add saffron, salt, pepper. Add clam juice, lemon juice, and white wine. Bring to a simmer again and cook about 5 minutes longer.

4 At serving time taste and correct the seasoning of the broth, adding a little more salt or pepper if need be, and maybe a touch of lemon juice. Into each soup bowl place a thick slice of crusty French bread, plain or slightly toasted. Spoon the bouillabaisse over the bread. If desired, serve with Sauce Rouille. Serves 6.

Directions for Sauce Rouille:

1 Tbsp hot fish stock or clam broth.
2 cloves peeled garlic
1 small red hot pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup soft white bread, pulled into bits
1/2 cup olive oil

Put hot fish stock or clam broth into the bottom of a blender. Add garlic and red hot pepper, salt, and bread. Blend until very smooth. With the blender still running, add olive oil slowly and stop the blending as soon as the oil disappears.

At serving time pass Rouille in a little bowl along with the bouillabaisse. Each serving is about 1/2 a teaspoon that you stir into your soup. Use gingerly like Tabasco.