Cod & Mussel Bouillabaisse

After a week of eating the cream based fish soups of Norway, I had a hankering for a more traditional, continental bouillabaisse, a shellfish and vegetable based broth cooked with the distinct flavors of Provençal herbs and spices. Served with crispy toasts, rouille and an assortment of white and shell fish, the soup is aromatic, delicious, and simple to prepare.

Before we left New Orleans on our recent trip, I found myself with 8 eight pounds of shrimp shells. Rather then throw them out I boiled them with onions, garlic, herbs and spices to create a pungent homemade fish stock. Using the waste of shellfish in this way is a great way to ensure a versatile and useful stock will be on hand whenever you need it. While it is useful to have such ingredients at my disposal, Iwas happy to be able to dispose of some of the numerous pints taking up valuable space in my freezer.

While it was a Bouillabaisse I had in my head, I was limited by the ingredients I could scrounge from my refrigerator. I found myself without the oft used ingredients of orange rind, fennel and celery. Regardless of these shortcomings, I improvised with what I had, creating a spicy broth filled with chunky, fragrant vegetables. To create the final product, a smooth, rich, slightly thicker soup, I pureed the ingredients, creating a more dynamic flavor, before adding the seafood and then garnishing with some parsley.

While my ingredients were fairly limited, you can add an assortment of other flavors such as lemon, white wine, shallots or whatever your recipe or stomach deem fit. The same is true for white fish and shell fish. The more the merrier and most species will work. Be sure as well to take the extra time to mix a rouille, as the spicy, garlic flavor adds a punch to the dish. This fish soup has become the traditional Christmas Eve dinner in my family, but you certainly do not need to stand on ceremony. It also makes for a fabulous weeknight dinner, no pressure added.

Cod & Mussel Bouillabaisse (serves 4-6)

3 pints fish stock
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1 orange pepper, chopped
28 oz diced canned tomatoes, drained
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp paprika
1 pinch safron
1 handful parsley
Leaves of 1 sprig tarragon
1 bay leaf
Sea salt and pepper to taste
.5 lb pound cod, chopped
1 lb mussels, scrubbed clean

In a large pan coated with olive oil saute the onion, garlic, and pepper until soft. When cooked add the parsley, tarragon, chili flakes, safron and paprika. Mix until incorporated. Set aside.

In a large stock pot heat three pints of fish stock. Add the sauteed vegetable and herb mixture, canned tomatoes, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down to simmer and let cook 30-45 minutes. Remove from stove and process in the Cuisinart until pureed. Salt and pepper to taste.

Return the puree to your stock pot and bring back to a slow boil. Add the cod and mussels and boil until cooked through, about two to four minutes.

Spoon into bowls, garnish with parsley and serve aside crostini topped with rouille.