Advertisements

myMEGusta

Named for things that please me (“me gusta” in Spanish) and rhymes with balabusta (Yiddish for “good homemaker”).

Desperately Seeking Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse

It was like a Seinfeld episode before the sitcom existed (or GPS or cell phones for that matter).

The scene was Marseille, France, and the Americans were desperately trying to get to what had appeared to be a well situated hotel, a block or so from the train station. The route spiraled out of control, driving around and around, getting farther away from the destination with each nearly concentric circle. It was the essence of you-cannot-get-there-from-here.

The big reason for being there in the first place was the famed fish soup known as Bouillabaisse, and one restaurant in particular was known to be just a little bit better at it than its many competitors in this city renowned for the dish.

When we finally broke the one-way street code and got to a phone, we were greeted with the bad news that the restaurant was fully booked.

“So sorry, Madame.”

At that point, my MEGusta went into culinary overdrive and begged the guy for a table for two, telling him that we had come all the way from America for his bouillabaisse, please, please, please.

“You must be here in ten minutes.”

Rouille

Croutons and Aioli

Croutons and Aioli

We were, and it was worth it, fishy perfection in a bowl, with all the accompaniments as pristine as the poached rockfish and shellfish floating in the broth the color of a perfect sunset. The rouille, a spicy sauce accent (also the French word for “rust”), was pungent but not overpowering. The aioli, freshly made mayonnaise with just enough raw garlic to be interesting, was the perfect enrichment, and, spread on perfectly toasted croutons, a reward in itself.

It’s not a real Bouillabaisse without all the little accoutrements, but this dish has lots of equally delicious relatives.

Bourride

Bourride

One variation is called bourride, very much like a bouillabaisse but thickened with egg yolk and pureed garlic, traditionally a pinch of saffron. Served with lovely poached fish of any/all kinds, it does not necessarily have the traditional accompaniments, but a little bowl of aioli on the side cannot hurt.

Another one is plain old fish soup (soupe de poissons).  This can be just about anything but most traditionally is a strained broth made from fish too small to be worth salvaging the flesh, including flavorful crustaceans like thumb sized crabs. You’ll find bins of such odds and ends labeled Soupe de Poissons at markets in the South of France, and this make a great base for soup.

Historically, fishermen of little means lived from the sea, selling their larger catch and making a nutritious potage from what we might call “trash fish”, perfectly edible and delicious, just really bony or otherwise inconvenient for the usual purposes. And the cook can add garnishes such as pasta or other goodies that are on hand in the pantry, or even chunks of meatier fish or shellfish.

Shrimp Shells

Shrimp Shells

Smart cooks save odds and ends like shrimp and lobster shells in the freezer until reaching critical mass, enough to make a pot of shellfish stock, and this becomes the base for many a happy soup dinner chez myMEGusta!

Advertisements

Single Post Navigation

3 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Bouillabaisse

  1. Bea Crumbine on said:

    Oh…I am now SOOOO in need of bouillabaisse and some aioli on the side. STOP!!!!!!

    XXOO Bea

    Sent from my iPad

  2. Arthur Shapiro on said:

    Another great fun and informative post.

    Hey MEG, why don’t we do a joint posting?

    Arthur Shapiro http://www.boozebusiness.com LinkedIn a.shapiro@mac.com 917-855-7726

  3. rugai@aol.com on said:

    Nice posting. Mouth watering!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: