THE DISH know as bouillabaisse was created by Marseille fishermen. Rather than using the more expensive fish that would bring in a larger profit, they cooked any fish and shellfish that they pulled up with their catch that were too bony to serve in restaurants, cooking them in a cauldron of sea water on a wood fire and seasoning them with garlic and fennel. Tomatoes were added to the recipe in the 17th century, after their introduction from the America.
In the 19th century, as Marseille became more prosperous, restaurants and hotels began to serve bouillabaisse to upper-class patrons. The recipe of bouillabaisse became more refined, with the substitution of fish stock and the addition of saffron. Bouillabaisse spread from Marseille to Paris, and then gradually around the world, adapted to local ingredients and tastes.
Three of the best-known restaurants in Marseille for traditional bouillabaisse are Le Miramar, on the Vieux Port; Chez Fonfon, at 140, Vallon des Auffes, and the Grand Bar des Goudes, Rue Desire-Péléprat.
The name bouillabaisse comes from the method of the preparation – the ingredients are not added all at once. The broth is first boiled (bouillir) then the different kinds of fish are added one by one, and each time the broth comes to a boil, the heat is lowered (abaisser).
But we have found an amazing way to make this wonderful dish in the slow cooker!
Here are the ingredients (serves 8):
1/2 cup of olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 leeks cut small
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3 filets of fish cut in 3 inch pieces (flounder, red mullet, whiting, sole, haddock, perch or whitefish)
2 large tomatoes cut in pieces or 1 cup canned tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 cups fish stock, clam juice or water
½ cup shrimp, crab or lobster meat cooked or canned
1 small bag of frozen sea food (muscles, squid, octopus …)
1 package frozen mussels in the shell (optional)
Few grains of saffron
Juice of 1 lemon
And MOST important!! 1 cup of dry white wine!
1 tablespoon chopped parsley and/or fennel
Season to taste (salt, pepper and if you wish ½ cup pimientos cut small)
Toss the whole kit and caboodle into the slow cooker (except for the frozen muscles in the shell and parsley/fennel).
Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours. You can eat it as is – but if you want to make it really “authentic” before its done – add the frozen muscles. The instructions on the bag will let you know how long they need to “open”. Some are a little pre cooked others not. Toss into the finished bouillabaisse in the slow cooker; put the lid back on until the shells open.
And Voila! Place in bowls and sprinkle the parsley/fennel on top and serve.
This is a dish our guests fight over for the last drop. We make the entire batch and eat it fresh out of the slow cooker for dinner (eating all the muscles in the shell – they don’t keep or store well) and the rest gets put in Tupperware (with screw lids) and frozen. This is easily warmed up on the stove or microwave and tastes just as good.
If you love seafood we know you’ll love this! Enjoy!