Bouillabaisse - Defined

Bouillabaisse—A national soup of the Latin race, composed of pieces of fish (boned and skinned), garlic, chopped parsley, bay leaves, tomatoes, leeks, onions, lobster, savory herbs, potatoes, olive oil and saffron, fried, then simmered till done; served in platefuls with slices of toast dried in the oven.

The Provincial fish-stew; is not a very formidable dish to prepare. The cooks of various hotels and restaurants in the southern seacoast towns of the United States make it two or three times a week as a matter of routine and are not pinched to the requirement of any particular sort of fish for it.

The plentiful and almost bone­less med-fish (channel bass) is taken for the found­ation and any others may be mixed in sparingly. It is required to have, besides the cutup fish, oil, white wine, garlic, leeks or onions or both, saffron or tomatoes, red pepper and herbs.

The onions, leeks, and garlic finely minced are half fried in the oil in a broad saucepan; the pieces of fish put in and the frying continued with a little gentle shaking­ until the fish is set firm.

Then the wine is poured in, perhaps a little water or stock, the pepper, herbs, salt and saffron, and the stewing go􀆵 on for an hour without a lid. The liquor or gravy is required to be like thick soup, is either boiled down or thickened with roux, well skimmed, served like a stew, fish and sauce together.

The modem tomato is supplanting the ancient saffron in dishes of this class, and the Creole. bouillabaisse made with tomatoes is acceptable to· everybody.

The eminent sample of the highest class of culinary literature appended here will be found edifying reading. It is from the leading journal in the catering trade:

"Bouillabaisse is a fish soup for which the Proven􀃧al fishing towns are famous, chiefly Marseilles. Garlic is essential to it, as to nearly, all the Provincial cookery; but those who eschew garlic may still obtain from it a good idea of how to concoct a savory fish soup.

Thackeray's 'Ballad of Bouilla­baisse' has given it a great name in England, but most Englishmen find it disappointing. It is a soup to be mightily loved or to be abhorred.

Bouillabaisse Definition and History

Bouillabaisse is probably the most famous seafood stew in the world. The erudite William Makepeace Thackeray even wrote a poem about it.

Most gastronomical authorities agree that bouillabaisse originated in Marseilles, France. But there are legends that Venus, the Goddess of Love, created it for her lover Vulcan; and that a holy abbess in a French convent originated it.

You will never find bouillabaisse in America as it is prepared in Marseilles, simply because the Marseilles version contains twelve different kinds of seafood, five of which are unknown and unobtainable in America.

It is said that originally Marseilles fishermen concocted this stew from the undersized and less desirable fishes taken from their daily catch, those not worth taking to the market—the smallest langoustes (lobsters), useless crabs, conger eels, little John Dories, etc. The greater the variety, the better the bouillabaisse.

Whatever the origin, the basic ingredients of bouillabaisse never change. Olive oil (never butter), garlic, and saffron must always be included, and no wine or liquor enters into the preparation. The proportions of fish and shellfish are more or less fixed—twice as many pounds of fish as shellfish.

I have eaten bouillabaisse in Provincetown on Cape Cod, in New York, in New Orleans, and in San Francisco. But the one that intrigued me most was the Bouillabaisse Italiano I had at Fisherman’s Grotto #9.

The history of Fisherman’s Grotto #9 is an interesting one, and well worth the telling, because it is also the history of Fisherman’s Wharf.

In 1902 Mike Geraldi, aged eleven years, arrived from Siacca, Italy to “make his way” in the resplendent port by the Golden Gate.

For a few years Mike sorted fish for the large fish wholesalers. He was paid, not in cash, but in fish, so Mike became a familiar figure, with his wide basket loaded with fish, as he trudged the cobbled streets on Nob, Russian, and Telegraph Hills to sell his fish. He saved his money, and in a few years bought a fishing boat. For the following few years, Mike sold the fish that he caught at a stand he set up at Jefferson & Taylor Streets. Then, with the innovation of the boat engine, a boon to all fishermen, Mike took over the job of selling combustion engines up and down the coast.

During his selling trips, Mike Geraldi realized that while there were a lot of excellent fish available on the California coast, there was not a single delicious fish dinner that could be obtained close to the source. So he decided to build his own restaurant, and offer to the public the many fish recipes that they couldn’t help but enjoy, especially such a dish as the tasty Cioppino and bouillabaisse he had prepared years before on his own

fishing boat when returning through the Gate to port. So in 1935 Mike built the first two-story restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf, and he named it the Fisherman’s Grotto, in honor of the fishermen themselves. He wanted a trademark symbolic of the fishermen, so the “Little Fisherman” was created—weather-beaten, dour, and bringing a smile to all who saw it. Seating 250 people, the restaurant overlooked the lagoons where the fishing fleet anchored. He decorated the restaurant with a gay, Venetian motif.

I am told that Mike Geraldi introduced bibs and popularized those delectable dishes, Cioppino and bouillabaisse. He is said to have pioneered the dish of spaghetti and cracked crab.

As time went by, Mike saw the need for improvements, so he installed a complete stainless steel kitchen, another bar, and an upstairs dining room. He also invested in four fishing boats to catch fish just for his own restaurant.

Mike Geraldi died in 1949. But his four sons, Nino, Mike Jr., Al, Lawrence, and his daughter Eleanor, all of whom had been raised in the business, took over.

In 1953 a complete remodeling job was done at Fisherman’s Grotto #9, and the beautiful Florentine dining room was added. It is styled in modernized Renaissance, with richly paneled walls and ceilings, and big panorama windows, commanding a wonderful view of the slips. Also added were two “view” banquet rooms and a large, beautifully carpeted and furnished Fireplace cocktail lounge. It even has an elevator, the only one in a restaurant on the Wharf.

It was Nino Geraldi, the pleasant but serious boss man of #9, who introduced me to Bouillabaisse Italiano, which comes under the classification of a “Lazy Man’s” bouillabaisse (everything is shelled). After I had eaten it, I couldn’t help but visit the kitchen and congratulate the chef on such a marvelous dish.

Bouillabaisse Italiano

  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Onions
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped Garlic
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped Parsley
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped Celery
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped Green Pepper
  • 2 cups Solid Pack Tomatoes
  • 2 tbsps. Salt
  • 1 tbsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 cup Sherry Wine
  • 3 cups Water
  • Pinch Dried Basil
  • 2 1/2 lbs. Crabmeat
  • 2 1/2 lbs. Large Shrimp
  • 3 Sea Bass or Halibut Steaks
  • 1/2 lb. Chopped Lobster Meat
  • 1 1/2 lbs. Clams
  • 1 Cup Tomato Sauce

Braise in olive oil the onions, garlic, parsley, celery and green peppers until they are a golden brown. Then add the tomatoes and the tomato sauce, salt, pepper, paprika and sherry wine. Cook 15 minutes. Then add the water and the dried basil, and cook slowly for 1 hour.

After the sauce is cooked and seasoned to your taste add the crabmeat, the shrimp, the sea bass or halibut steaks, the coarsely chopped lobster meat, and the clams.

Cook together for 30 to 40 minutes. This amount of sauce and shellfish will serve 6 persons. If sea bass or halibut can’t be obtained, any fresh fish may be used.

Di Maggio’s and Alioto’s restaurants specialize in shellfish bouillabaisse. I must confess that it is difficult for me to choose between a shellfish bouillabaisse and a bouillabaisse in which fish is included, because they are both pretty terrific. I would recommend that you try both, and make up your own mind.


  • 2 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 cup fresh clam broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 to 10 raw prawns
  • 12 scallops, whole
  • 8 medium-sized oysters
  • 1 lb. live lobster
  • 12 to 14 clams

For this dish, use a French pottery casserole, 8 inches in diameter and 3 inches deep, if you have one. Otherwise, use a Pyrex glass casserole.

Heat the olive oil in the casserole over a very low flame. Add the little green onions (bulb and top) chopped, and the garlic, minced. Cook slowly for 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the parsley, and remove the casserole from the fire before adding the clam broth, the dry white wine, and the salt and pepper to taste.

Blend all well, then add the raw prawns, which have been shelled, cleaned and deveined, the scallops, the oysters and clams in their shells (which have been thoroughly scrubbed), and the live lobster, cut into 2 inch squares.

The clams, by the way, should be added last, on top of the other shellfish. Cover the casserole and simmer very slowly for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the clam shells are open.

Place the casserole on the table, and serve very hot. As usual, garlic bread is a must, as well as a dry white wine, chilled.

At Alioto’s they include saffron in their recipe for bouillabaisse, which in the original Marseilles bouillabaisse is as necessary as the seafood. There is no doubt that saffron does add an almost indefinable flavor.


  • 3 tbsps. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • l/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 sprig parsley, chopped
  • Pinch dried rosemary
  • 4 ozs. prawns, uncooked
  • 3 ozs. scallops, uncooked
  • 3 ozs. lobster meat, uncooked
  • 2 ozs. crab legs, shelled
  • 4 ozs. clams, raw
  • 2 tbsp. dry sherry wine
  • 1 cup tomato pulp
  • 1/2 lemony sliced thin
  • 1 pint fish stock
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsps. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron

First make your fish stock.

Place the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and add the onion, coarsely chopped, the celery, chopped fine, the garlic, minced, the parsley and the rosemary.

Sauté for about 5 minutes. Then add the shellfish, all uncooked (shell, clean and devein the prawns, and take the clams out of their shells), and the sherry wine, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Then add the tomato pulp, the thin lemon slices, the fish stock, sugar, salt and cayenne pepper, and cook on a low flame for 10 minutes. Just before removing from the fire, add the saffron, and stir very lightly.

Serve piping hot with slices of garlic bread. “For a rare culinary treat” Frank Alioto wrote, and he is so right! The above recipe is for 2 servings.
While the following recipe is neither a Goppino nor a bouillabaisse, it is a wonderful seafood stew, and I am including it in this chapter, because I think you could call Goppino and bouillabaisse seafood stews.

I first had this seafood stew at the Drake Hotel in Chicago, in their oyster bar. Chef Clyde Beatty prepares it for you as you sit at the bar.

Clyde is the son of a commercial fisherman, and was bora on Kelley’s Island, in Lake Erie, about 58 miles west of Cleveland.

His mother owns and runs the Rock Haven restaurant on the island. So, with such a background, Clyde should be able to devise and cook seafood dishes.


"Thackeray, of course . . "

Well, how else should an English book approach bouillabaisse than by mentioning Thackeray? I do it pour l’acquit de ma conscience, to pay my duty, but never can I believe that the dear man ever tasted bouillabaisse in the New Street of the Little Fields.

And indeed his ballad is not of bouillabaisse, but of lost youth—a dish that in every country is only served cold à la vinaigrette, or with sharp sauce.

I have eaten of jeunesse perdue à la sauce piquante in many places, and I noticed that, unlike most dishes, it tasted much the same in all. That is perhaps due to the fact that its ingredients travel so well; they are not among the luggage that gets lost or spoiled.

Now bouillabaisse, on the other hand, cannot be eaten in Paris or Pernambuco or Peking or Paddington, or other punch-brother- punch places, for the reason that though there may be a wife who can cook waiting in every seaport for every sailor, the necessary ingredients for the bouillabaisse can never be met with more than a hundred miles from the Mediterranean shore, unless one is to rifle an aquarium. And who would dare to do that? Who would not rather leave the ‘rascasse’ in his tank than meet his eye at close quarters?

The ‘rascasse’ is but one of the fish that go to make the real and only bouillabaisse. There are others, but they are awful to look at. I once accompanied an M.B. (Master in Bouillabaisse) through the fish-market of Nice.

The April morning was fresh and gentle, the ridiculous classic columns of the market gleamed white, and the M.B. went from one gleaming marble slab to another, diligently acquiring fish, fortunately dead, which had another, diligently acquiring fish, fortunately dead, which had the most appalling countenances of ferocity and hate conceivable to the human imagination.

Reflecting upon the mild, not to say imbecile, eye of London’s Monday-morning cod, the decapitated coyness of its annular whiting, the gentle gaze of Dover’s grill- striped sole, and the smile of Yarmouth and Loch Fyne upon the dead faces of their herrings, I found it almost impossible to believe that these and those alike were fit for food.

Endless recipes for bouillabaisse exist, ranging from the fierce truth to the gentle and spinsterly ‘take a young sole’ of some English and French cookery-books, in the days before the fastest fish-train and the coldest storage had proved that the essential material of the dish must be almost living.

You can make a fish-stew anywhere in the world, with the fish you have, saffron, garlic, onion, butter and other basic items. But it will not be bouillabaisse unless those fearsome fish of the Mediterranean are in it.

Thackeray ate in Paris a fish-stew seasoned à la bouillabaisse, but he could not have had the real thing even in Lyons, where all culinary impossibilities are possible if human skill can compass them.

The bouillabaisse of Marseilles has a fighting quality; the garlic and the saffron stand up and slap at each other like young tigers in play, and the glare of the eye of the ‘rascasse’ is upon them.

The ‘rascasse’ contributes in a large measure to the success of the famous Marseilles dish. It belongs to the same family as the John Dory and the red garnet.

The head is large and spiky, and the body is covered with scaly threads which give it a weird appearance. Its spikes often make dangerous wounds on the fishermen, but the flesh is excellent and sound.

In olden times the flesh was thought to be endowed with medical properties. Naturalists place this fish in the scorpion class. There are two kinds, the black and the brown. The latter is considered the true rascasse.

The garlic can be omitted, but Marius thinks that a white- livered way of approaching his dish.

In Paris restaurants, still more in foreign ones, bouillabaisse is listed as a soup, and treated as such.

On the Mediterranean coast it is better understood; it is a meal. You order it in advance from your pet restaurant—so much the better if it is a small one, where the proprietor will himself go to market, and then spend his whole morning making the precious dish.

With your friends you arrive in an admirable humor (if this ingredient is not to hand, please stay at home), and you sit down and dally with fresh bread, fresh butter, sardines, radishes and olives.

Then you tuck your napkin under your Adam’s apple, fix your eye on the door, dilate the nostrils, and leave off talking.

The actual entry of the two tureens, the anxious sniff, the eager inspection, and the relieved smile, can only be rendered by reading in terms of bouillabaisse the description of Bob Cratchit’s goose and Christmas pudding. Then for a while there is silence.

When tongues are loosened-and belts, and the finger-bowls have gone round, the meal is drooping to its perfect end. A crisp salad, a good Camembert, ripe figs or other fruit-no more.

A pause, filled by the rolling yet staccato voice of Marius at his happiest. Then coffee; and every man to choose his own pet liqueur, preferably something a little out of the way, that he can vaunt and press upon his Neighbour. And so, au revoir et merci.

Marseilles Bouillabaisse

The fish preferable for this dish are rascasse, chapon, dory, whiting, fielas, boudreuil, langouste, red mullet, gurnet. The fish should be cut up into pieces and separated into the firm and the soft.

Cut up 3 onions, 2 cloves of chopped garlic, 2 tomatoes, peeled, with a little thyme and bay-leaf, a piece of dried orange-peel, parsley and fennel, a tablespoonful or less of saffron, and half cook them in oil without browning.

Then add the firm fish, seasoned with salt and pepper. Add a large wineglassful of white wine and sufficient boiling water to cover the fish. Boil it up quickly, and after five minutes add the soft fish, and cook it for a further five minutes.

Then arrange the fish in a plate, dishing it carefully with a fish-slice. Reduce the broth a little and pour it boiling on to slices of bread in a tureen and serve at the same time as the fish.

The essential character of the dish can be more gently interpreted. A delicious illustration of this is the recipe for a bouillabaisse I first ate in a small hostelry on the Nice-Monte-Carlo road, made by the present owner of the Faletto Restaurant at Nice, who authorizes the following formula, with the rider: ‘Bouillabaisse is the most difficult dish to do well that I know,’ by which one can gather that the simple-sounding directions have behind them that all-potent tour de main which may be translated as The Hidden Hand, since it changes the significance of all it touches.

Bouillabaisse Faletto (Nice)

Put a spoonful and a half per person of olive oil in the pan and cook an onion cut in slices till browned. Add first of all the large fish such as lobster, rascasse, ‘lou capoun,’ ‘Lou verdoun,’ ‘la Morena,’ then the smaller fish or soup-fish.

Season them with salt and pepper and a pinch of saffron and cool them for io minutes. Then add slices of potato and sufficient water to cover the fish, fresh and preserved tomato purée, cook it a further 10 to 15 minutes.

Strain the small fish through the sieve. Fry some slices of bread in olive oil and put them in the tureen, pour the broth over them, and serve the large fish on a separate dish.

Marcel Boulestin has given a recipe for bouillabaisse for English kitchens under the modest title of ‘Fish Soup.’

The ingredients are: -

  • 1 lb. mixed fish,
  • 1 mackerel,
  • 1 herring,
  • 1 mullet,
  • 1 whiting,
  • a few sprats,
  • a small piece of haddock,
  • 2 or 3 oysters
  • small crab,
  • olive oil,
  • white wine,
  • a bay-leaf,
  • thyme,
  • cloves,
  • 3 heads (sic) of garlic,
  • 3 tomatoes,
  • 3 onions,
  • 2 leeks,
  • parsley,
  • salt and pepper;
  • spaghetti,
  • saffron
  • grated cheese.

I have it on his own authority that he thinks this sounds ‘rather extravagantly Chinese,’ so why not put some pork in too?

Burgundy has its own fresh-water bouillabaisse, called a ‘Meurette.’

Maika (Tunisian Bouillabaisse)

Fry onions in oil and add a paste of pimento, pepper, salt, coriander and plenty of garlic, crushed together with milk. Mix it well with the onion, moisten with milk (goats’ milk if available), and when it boils lay in mixed fish of many sorts, including at least one crustacean.

After twenty minutes of steady simmering pour the liquid over toasted slices of bread on which a lemon has been grated, and serve the fish in another tureen.

Sicilian Bouillabaisse

It is made like the Maïka, but with water instead of milk, and the soup is thickened with two yolks and flavored with the juice of a lemon and of half an orange.

Bouillabaisse de l’Océan (Biscayan Coast)

For four persons, mix in a saucepan 3 spoonfuls of oil and the same quantity of butter, and cook therein 3 large onions, l/2 lb. of potatoes, 2 chopped leeks, a sprig of thyme and one of sariette, a little fennel, a bay-leaf, 2 cloves of garlic, a stick of celery and some mashed tomatoes, a pinch of saffron. Cut off the heads of 2 whiting, a small conger, 2 red mullets, 2 sardines, 2 mackerel, some mussels and a small lobster. Season it with salt and pepper and cover with a glass of white wine to two of water and cook for 3/4 hour.

Strain it through the sieve or the colander and cook 3 potatoes, very finely chopped, in the broth. Cook all the fish in butter and stew them again in the broth.

Brown some slices of bread and pour the broth over them. Serve the fish on a separate dish, but bring both the broth and the fish to table at the same time.

Bouillabaisses and Matelotes

Bouillabaisse Américaine. Gourmet's Basic French Cookbook, 1961. GGA Image ID #

That Frenchmen love good food is no secret. What many people are not aware of is a Frenchman’s loyalty not only to French cooking but to a particular kind of French cooking: that of his own small native section of France. When he says “ mon pays, ” he means Provence, the Midi, Brittany, Normandy, or wherever he comes from—but not “ my country, all of France. ”

These regional culinary differences, and the passionate Gallic loyalties invoked by them, are particularly pronounced where fish is concerned. The fish found in the different parts of France are as varied as its many political parties. The catch from the bright blue Mediterranean differs from the catch taken from the turbulent, cold Atlantic. And neither at all resembles the fresh-water species.

There are two great regional specialties that involve boiled fish: bouillabaisses and matelotes.

Mediterranean fish are used in bouillabaisse. The popularity of this famous soup apparently began in the port of Marseille hundreds of years ago. In southern Provence bouillabaisse is eaten regularly by many a family and is not just a specialty in the restaurants. With beef scarce and expensive, bouillabaisse is the southern family’s pot-au-feu, their Sunday dish, and enjoyed with the fondness and appreciation with which their northern cousins regard pot-au-feu.

Matelote is a dish of the interior, a stew made from fresh-water fish. Both dishes vary according to the section in which they are made, and usually only local fish go into the pot.

Some people, remembering the bouillabaisse turned out by famous French restaurants, claim that here in America we cannot make bouillabaisse as good, and that it never tastes quite as it does when it is eaten on the sunny shore of the Mediterranean between Marseille and Toulon and served by a swarthy, smiling Provençal waiter.

I myself sometimes think that bouillabaisse is enhanced by the presence of the appetite- whetting mistral—the mad, wild wind that sweeps down from the Alps.

But even though regional dishes cannot be exactly duplicated away from the little sections that made them famous, it is usually possible to substitute a different wine or cheese for the unavailable variety, 1 different vegetable or fish, and get excellent results.

What if bouillabaisse in this country is not exactly the same as that in Marseille? Neither are the many different kinds served along the Mediterranean coast. Everyone from Cape Cerbère to Mentone claims the distinction of serving the best.

Fine fish and shellfish are available in America, and I have made many a Frenchman homesick—and many a homesick Frenchman happy—with American bouillabaisse.

The bouillabaisse famous in Marseille is what it is not only because of the Mediterranean fish that go into it but because of the blended flavors of foods native to Provence—olive oil (never butter), garlic, tomatoes, onions, parsley, fennel, bay leaf, and the all-important saffron, fresh saffron.

This undoubtedly contributes something special, because a fresh herb is always more aromatic and subtle than a dried one. And the bit of dried orange rind from native Provençal oranges adds a special bouquet recognized by connoisseurs of bouillabaisse.

Kinds of Fish for Bouillabaisse

Marseille bouillabaisse includes at least 5 or 6 kinds of fish, not counting shellfish. The local cooks use the poissons de roches, the fish that swim around the rocks, and the marine eel and either crawfish or lobster.

Marseille bouillabaisse includes crustacés, such as lobster, but not coquillages, bivalves such as clams, mussels, and oysters. Parisian bouillabaisse does include mussels, and many chefs, I for one, think clams improve the dish.

Use 6 to 10 pounds of fish and about 4 pounds of shellfish to make a bouillabaisse for 12 people. It is hardly practical to make much less than that amount.

The bulk of the fish must be firm-fleshed, a very important point. The soup must boil hard for at least 15 minutes, because it contains a considerable amount of olive oil which would separate out and float on top in a slow boil.

In the hard fast boiling, the oil and stock seem to form a sort of emulsion, giving the bouillon the characteristic bouillabaisse consistency. Therefore, soft fish and mussels and clams must be added at the end, to prevent overcooking.

I have never been able to find out the exact reason for the thickening effect of the fast boiling, but I have watched many a Marseille chef cook bouillabaisse and seen it work.

It may be that gelatin extracted from the fish and its bones combines with the oil. The practice of thickening the soup with beurre manié, butter and flour creamed together, is frowned upon by purists.

The croûte, or bread, served with bouillabaisse has its ritual, with local variations. The croûte is part of the service, because bouillabaisse is a soup, not a stew, and should not be eaten with the ingredients all mixed together like a stew.

Many do like it that way, however. The bouillon should be served first, with the croûte, and the fish served together on another plate, so that each kind can be easily identified and eaten separately.

One of Marseille’s best chefs recommends that the bread be untoasted and the bouillon poured over it so that it thickens the bouillon, something like a panade. A kind of homemade bread called marette is used in Marseille.

Some want the bread toasted, rubbed with garlic, and floated on the soup, as the croûte is in onion soup. Some prefer a generous sprinkling of small croutons browned in oil or butter.

Here is a Marseille bouillabaisse made with American fish. You will need a large knife with a heavy blade and a heavy board on which to work.

One word more: the diners will appreciate a small plate onto which they can put the discarded bones.

MARSEILLE BOUILLABAISSE (Bouillabaisse Marseillaise)

Use 1 pound each of cleaned red snapper, perch, end tail of cod, and eel, 1 1/2 pounds either striped or sea bass, 2 1/2 pounds Spanish mackerel, and 2 live lobsters each weighing 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds. Cut all into 1-inch slices, cutting the lobster through shell and flesh.

Into a large kettle put 3 large leeks, 2 medium onions, and 1 large carrot, all peeled and chopped. Add 1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, 2 cloves of garlic, crushed, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon saffron, 1 bay leaf, a little thyme, a pinch of chopped fresh fennel tips, if obtainable, and the dried rind of 1/2 orange.

Add i tablespoon salt and a little pepper. Spread the cutup lobster on top of the vegetables and add all the fish except the perch and cod. Pour over 1/2 cup olive oil and enough water to cover the mixture well.

Bring the liquid to the boil as quickly as possible and let it boil hard for 8 minutes. Add the perch and cod and cook for 8 minutes more. To serve, remove the fish and lobster to a serving dish.

Slice French bread about 1/4 inch thick, place it in the bottom of a large soup tureen, and pour the bouillon over. Serve the soup and the fish separately. Serves 10 to 12.

AMERICAN BOUILLABAISSE (Bouillabaisse Américaine)

Use 1 pound eel, 1 1/4 pounds each of striped and sea bass, 2 1/4 pounds of Spanish mackerel or red snapper or other firm-fleshed fish, and 2 live lobsters, each weighing 1 3/4 to 2 pounds. Cut all into 1-inch slices, cutting the lobster through shell and flesh. With a stiff brush, scrub thoroughly 2 dozen clams and 2 dozen mussels.

In a large kettle, heat 1/2 cup olive oil, add 2 large leeks, 2 onions and i large carrot, all chopped or cut into julienne, and cook slowly until the vegetables take on a light golden color.

Add 1 pound fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped, or 1 can of tomatoes, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, crushed, 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1 teaspoon saffron, 1 small bay leaf, a little thyme, a pinch of chopped fresh fennel tips if obtainable, 1 teaspoon salt and a little pepper.

Spread the cutup lobster and eel on top of the vegetables and add 2 cups tomato juice and 2 quarts water. Bring the liquid to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the striped bass, sea bass, mackerel and red snapper and boil hard for 10 minutes longer. Add the clams and mussels and continue to cook until their shells open. Correct the seasoning with salt if necessary.

To serve, dish up the fish in deep bowls or individual casseroles, giving each person a piece or two of each kind, and pour some of the liquid over it. Remove the shells from the lobsters and place a couple of pieces on top of each serving. Remove the upper shells of the clams and mussels and place the lower shells with the clams and mussels around the lobster.

Serve the soup in separate deep bowls with slices of crusty French bread in each to thicken the soup. Or rub the slices of bread with garlic, brown in olive oil and serve separately.


Bouillabaisse is the Provençal fishermen's version of fish chowder. Like all fishermen's stores for cooking at sea, the basic ingredients consist of nonperishable and economically priced staples: potatoes, onions, garlic, tomato paste, oil, and saffron.

(Saffron, the 4 stamens of a species of autumn crocus, grows wild in Provence and is easily garden grown.) The name, made of the verbs bouälir—to bring to a boil and baisser—to lower the fire, sums up the recipe as well as indicating the quality of the fish that normally goes in the pot.

This is a catch of fish good enough to flavor a broth if spooned out of it before it disintegrates, but too bony to be served at the table. When edible fish is added to this broth, the dish becomes a full meal of bouillabaisse.

In theory, fishermen and cooks from Marseilles, Antibes, Menton, and Nice have each their special recipes for it. But as fish become increasingly harder to find (they dart away on sight from skin divers), what with spiny lobsters imported to the mainland from Corsica and fish that have to be caught far out at sea, recipes in France and Italy are adapted to the fish one finds or can afford to buy.

Getting fish for our bouillabaisse is the least of our problem, except that we cannot use the same fish as the fishermen of Provence for a reason that they could never guess at. We have the fish in plenty, but it’s considered trash and is never sold.

The object in this recipe has been to put a bouillabaisse together that can be served without apologies as genuine, and to make it up in such a way that it can as easily be shopped for in Maine as in Kansas; and since we are concerned with facts, it should be stressed that wine or alcohol of any kind is unheard of in this soup. I have Mrs. Buenocore the lady at the fish store to thank for the absolutely superb assortment of fish without which it could not have been done.

Domestic Bouillabaisse


  • 6 large shrimps (use fresh fish if possible, if not, frozen fish will do almost as well)
  • 6 deep-sea scallops
  • 1 1/2 lb. halibut cut up as scallops
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 tbs. salad oil
  • 1 tbs. tomato paste i tbs. chopped parsley—known as Italian or horse parsley, the wide-leaved variety
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 5-oz. pack saffron-flavored rice

Heat the oil and chopped garlic in a large skillet over a low fire, cook 2 min., do not brown. Keep the fire low. Add the shrimps, scallops, and fish. The shrimps turn red and the fish whitens instantly.

Turn the fish over to absorb the oil and garlic, cook 1 min. Add water, tomato paste, and parsley, shake the rice over the stew. Cover and simmer until done. Bring the skillet to the table and ladle the stew out on soup plates.

For an extra touch of Provence, serve with sauce Rouille. This is an aioli sauce, seasoned with paprika rosa and a dash of cayenne pepper.

Saffron-prepared rice is used because it seasons the broth to a perfection that people not familiar with the dish could not obtain.

Scallops, halibut, and shrimps are also the perfect ingredients for Cioppino, the classical fish soup of southern Italy. The reason is that both soups call for a rich and pungent stock that is neither watery nor oily. Here is the recipe for Cioppino.



  • 6 large shrimps
  • 6 deep-sea scallops
  • 1/2 lb. halibut cut up scallop-size
  • 2 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 tbs. salad oil
  • 2 tbs. chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/2 cup water
  • pepper and salt

Cook the garlic and oil in the skillet 2 min., do not brown. Add the £sh, cook 2 min., turn the pieces over and cook 1 min. Add parsley and water, salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Serve over boiled spaghetti or any pasta of your choice.

Note on Provençal and Italian style vegetable soups: Pistou is not a soup but a seasoning for soups. Crash 2 garlic cloves in 1/2 cup of olive oil (with 1 tbs. of tomato sauce if you wish) and 1/2 cup of fresh chopped basil and pour over any vegetable and pasta soup you choose. The result is soupe au pistou.

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