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Bouillabaisse à l’Américaine

This super luxe seafood soup from starts with a fantastically rich-flavored broth made with fish heads, bones, lots of aromatics and tomatoes. Saffron-laced potatoes, snapper and bass fillets, shrimp and mussels all go in at the end and the dish is served with a very tasty rouille.

Yield: Serves 6


Garlicky Rouille

  • 1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-in pieces 
  • Pinch of saffron threads
  • Kosher salt
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 6 super fresh garlic cloves
  • 2 large egg yolks 
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Herb & Spice Sachet

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise, or 6 large cloves, crushed
  • Three 3-in-long strips of orange zest



  • Two 2-lb whole black sea bass, cleaned and filleted, heads and bones reserved
  • One 4-lb red snapper, cleaned and filleted, head and bones reserved
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped 
  • 3 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or crushed red pepper, plus more for seasoning
  • 1/4 cup pastis
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
  • 1 lb plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 lb small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered
  • Kosher salt and white pepper
  • 1 lb mussels, scrubbed and debearded
  • Crusty baguette, for serving


Make the garlicky rouille

  • Step 1 In a medium saucepan, combine the potato, saffron, a pinch of salt and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook until the saffron water is reduced by half and the potato is cooked through, about 20 mins. Cool completely, then transfer the potato and saffron water to a blender. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the oil and pulse to combine. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in the oil until well blended. Season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl; refrigerate.

Make the herb-and-spice sachet

  • Step 1 Assemble all of the ingredients on a piece of cheesecloth, wrap into a bundle and tie with kitchen string.

Make the Bouillabaisse

  • Step 1 Rinse all of the fish heads and bones until the water runs clear. Cut the fillets into 2-in pieces and transfer them to a bowl; cover and refrigerate.
  • Step 2 In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, celery, fennel, leek, saffron and cayenne and cook over moderate heat until the vegetables soften, 8 mins. Add the pastis and cook until evaporated. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until beginning to caramelize, about 5 mins.
  • Step 3 Add the fish heads and bones, shrimp shells, herb-and-spice sachet and enough water to just cover, about 16 cups. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderately low heat for 20 mins, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Stir in the tomatoes and cook gently for 30 mins.
  • Step 4 Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until tender, about 15 mins. Drain well.
  • Step 5 Pick out and discard the herb-and-spice sachet and any large fish bones. Working in batches, transfer the contents of the casserole to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot, pressing on the solids.

Finish the Bouillabaisse

  • Step 1 Bring the soup to a simmer. Add the potatoes. Season the fish with salt and pepper and add to the soup. Cook over low heat for 3 mins. Add the shrimp and mussels, cover and cook until the mussels open and the fish and shrimp are cooked through, 2 mins longer. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne.
  • Step 2 Stir 2 tablespoons of the hot soup into the rouille. Ladle the bouillabaisse into shallow bowls. Serve with the rouille and crusty bread.

Pair with: Lighter white wines, such as those based from the sauvignon blanc grape are the best to enjoy with Bouillabaisse.

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