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Winter Recipes: Bouillabaisse

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Bouillabaisse, though a French classic, is not an especially elegant meal. It is not one of the cream-based dishes that keeps gastronomes flocking back to the food temples of Paris. It is instead a Provençal dish: invented in the poorer southern regions and based on vegetables and local ocean creatures. This light, spicy stew makes delicious work of seafood -- the expensive stuff and trash fish alike. (Of course, "trash fish" is often a misnomer. Just like hemlines, these things tend to be trend-based.)

Below is the recipe for the bouillabaisse served by David Myers at Comme Ça in West Hollywood and Las Vegas. The seafood combo he uses is excellent, of course, but if something else strikes your fancy feel free to tailor it to your tastes. (I'd personally swap out the mussels for crab, for instance. There is room for delicious improvisation here.)

Bouillabaisse
serves 4
3/4 cup olive oil
Bones and heads (gills removed) from fish for recipe
Shrimp shells from shrimp for recipe
2 onions, thinly sliced
2 shallots, sliced
1 bulb fennel, sliced
3 tomatoes - peeled, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
In a sachet:
1 fennel top from one bulb fennel
2 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 pinch saffron threads
1 cup Pernod
3/4 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded
1 pound sea bass filets, cut into 2 inch wide pieces
1 pound snapper filets, cut into 2 inch wide pieces
3/4 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, and add the fish bones and shrimp shells and sauté for five minutes. Add the onions, shallots, tomatoes, and garlic. Cook over a low heat, stirring constantly for five minutes until vegetables are soft.

Add the sachet and the Pernod. Turn up the heat to high, and boil for about 3 minutes to allow the Pernod to evaporate. Add enough water to cover and simmer for forty minutes.

Blend mixture and strain.

Place back into large pot, bring strained liquid to a boil, add fish, and reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking for two to three minutes, then add mussels and shrimp.

Continue simmering for two minutes or until shrimp are cooked and mussels are open. Fish should be cooked but not breaking apart. Adjust seasoning to taste. Garnish with toasted baguette

Rouille
4 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
6 cloves garlic, halfed and de-germed
1 red chili, minced (more if desired)
1 tsp cayenne
8 oz mild cooking oil (vegetable, canola)
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 medium Yukon gold potato (or other waxy variety), cut to 1" dice
Fine sea salt

Cook the potato in a small pot in just enough salted water to cover the it. When very tender, remove from heat and set aside (leave potatoes in water, in the pot).

Place yolks in a food processor with the garlic, mustard, chili, and cayenne. Cover and start processor; remove the potatoes from their liquid and add them to the food processor.

Begin adding the oil in a steady stream until all is incorporated, add the vinegar, and process until smooth. Season to taste.

The rouille should be thick but not pasty. If necessary, add water, a few drops at a time and process until smooth.

Serve with toasted baguette slices to accompany bouillabaisse. The rouille can be enjoyed as a spread on the baguettes or stirred into the soup by the guest to enhance the spiciness and consistency of the soup.

Comme Ca
8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; 32782-1104

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