Even though Bouillabaisse fits the criteria of Spectacularly Delicious — proper name, special equipment (food mill), and unusual taste and presentation (break out that soup tureen!), I didn't put this at the top of my list as a choice meal. Seemed like there were enough bouillabaisse recipes already out there until I found this recipe for long island bouillabaisse.
And reviewing various recipes, I encountered more than a few pretentious proclamations, along the lines of "It's impossible to make an authentic bouillabaisse unless you live within a kilometer or two of the Mediterranean." Spare me. On the opposite end of the spectrum are scads of short-cut versions claiming they're as good as the real deal. "All you need is couple of bottles of clam juice and any fish you can lay your hands on." Well… not really. Plus these quickie recipes usually heavy up on the clams, mussels and shrimp to pretty up things, but the shellfish doesn't contribute much of anything in the way of flavor to the soup.
Bouillabaisse is one of those things that defy "a perfect recipe." Sure, I believe there are some non-negotiables, starting with the homemade soup made with carcasses of whole fish. Saffron and tomatoes everyone agrees on; fennel bulb and orange peel are essentials to me. Only fools dare forego the garlic, leeks and onions. Herbs and spices can vary, within reason, as do rouille recipes. You must make a spicy rouille though there are a number of creditable ways to get there. That's okay. I like the boiled potato addition, it gives it more heft.
Maybe the most unusual element of this rendition is the dusting of parmesan at the end. Before you get all up in arms, may I point out that Julia in MTAOFC included the cheese garnish way back in the day. In fact, she gives the option of Swiss or parmesan. That's just the way Julia rolled, baby, and that's good enough for me. Plus it does make bouillabaisse even more scrumptious.
Lucky enough to be on the east end of Long Island, I zeroed in on the local catch. This recipe is more of a record of this particular iteration, not some end-all be-all final say on the topic. The only non-local aquatic ingredient was a nice big pile of Canadian halibut bones the friendly fish guy threw in for free, once he got the gist of what I was doing. These added more depth to the soup. And the jumbo shrimp garni — Lord knows where they come from these days. But the shrimp is more for looks. It's the fin fish and their trimmings that add all the flavor.
The soup, delicious and elegant. But just a tease of the rapture to come. The collection of the various fish — lightly flaky flounder, hefty cod, rich bluefish and sea bass. Mixed together in one bite with that bit of cheese — bliss. A choice meal indeed.
CLICK HERE FOR LINK TO LONG ISLAND BOUILLABAISE RECIPE