Each culture has their own version of seafood stew. We are most familiar with the Italian-American cioppino, but the French have their own fish stew:
Based out of Marseille in the Provencal region of France, long stands a rich history and tradition behind this fish stew. Bouillabaisse was originally a stew made by Marseille fishermen using the bony rockfish they were unable to sell to restaurants or markets. Then, a concoction of Provencal herbs and spices were simmered with the broth to create this traditional French stew.
An authentic Marseille bouillabaisse must include rascasse, which is a bony rockfish, European conger, and sea robin. According to the Michelin Guide Vert, the four essential elements of a true bouillabaisse are the presence of rascasse, the freshness of the fish, olive oil, and the luxurious saffron.
Bouillabaisse is a classic French fish stew made with a tomato-based seafood broth.
The difference between bouillabaisse and any other fish soup lies in the combination of flavors beyond the seafood stock. A hint of saffron, an accent of zested orange, and a few sliced fennel bulbs and fronds bring out an essence from the seafood that would otherwise remain hidden.
This fusion of unpredictable spices and zest brings the incredible depth of flavor and vibrancy to the bouillabaisse.
Traditionally, the broth is served in a soup pot with rouille and croutons and the seafood on a large platter. Rouille is a sauce that consists of olive oil with breadcrumbs, garlic, saffron, and cayenne pepper. It adds a rich garlicky-ness and a creamy mayonnaise consistency, typically added to the bouillabaisse or spread on top of the croutons.
A variety of seafood proteins are used, but it is best to vary the textures and flavors. At Left Bank, the dish contains sea bass, mussels, and prawns and a unique twist by adding Pernod, an anise-flavored liquor.
The flavor profile on this dish is one you won’t be able to forget.