winter bouillabaisse

I always crave a bouillabaisse-style fish soup this time of the year. It warms me up and also brings memories of the sunny Mediterranean as I combine shellfish, tomatoes, saltwater fish and herbs. The fragrance reminds me of the sea. I never make the same recipe twice because it’s based on what I find at the fish counter that day. The base of the soup is very easy to make and can be made ahead of time. Choose the freshest shellfish and fish possible and add it to the broth right before serving. Enjoy!

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (1½ cups)
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 cups seafood stock or 2 cups clam juice and 1 cup water
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
¾ teaspoon coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
pinch cayenne
12 ounces halibut, skin removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound peeled deveined uncooked large shrimp (21 to 30 count)
12 ounces mussels (in the shell)

Croutons and Aioli
12 thin diagonal slices French baguette
extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
⅓ cup mayonnaise
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon broth from fish soup

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat until hot. Add the onions and saute for 3 to 5 minutes or until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the halibut, shrimp and mussels. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low or low and simmer for 20 minutes or until flavorful.

Meanwhile, make the croutons and the aioli. Heat the oven to 400°F. Lightly brush both sides of the baguette with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake 5 to 8 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once. Stir together the mayonnaise, garlic and 1 tablespoon broth from the fish soup until blended and set aside.

Add the halibut to the soup and cook for 2 minutes. Add the mussels and shrimp and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink, the mussels open and the halibut just begins to flake. Remove and discard any mussels that don’t open. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the aioli.

Serve the bouillabaisse garnished with croutons topped with aioli and pass the remaining aioli to stir into the soup as desired.

Serves 6