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Nothing quite warms you up in the wintertime like a big bowl of bouillabaisse, pronounced “boo-yah-beis.”
So, I know bouillabaisse is not traditionally Parisian, but it is a dish found on several menus in Paris. Chefs born to the traditions of the French riviera migrated their obsession with this seafood stew from the Southern countryside to Northern city dwellers. This dish, originally from the port city of Marseille, is enjoyed by the masses of France regardless of where one dwells.
Its most traditional form includes tomato, saffron, and fennel blended with fish stock and served with an array of shellfish, including clams, mussels, and chunks of fleshy white fish. Traditional means many things in the South of France. Everyone’s family seems to have a different interpretation of an “authentic” bouillabaisse. Regardless, we have studied a few of the best versions, discussed “the technical” parts with some great cooks, and spent time in the South of France, eating our way through a stew after stew.
For this recipe, we employ traditional techniques and flavors for the stock and bouillabaisse, but our version is reinvented with toasted Israeli pearl couscous and crisp green peas.
What Is Bouquet Garni?
It is a mixture of herbs tied up into a cheesecloth with a strand of twine or string, which originated in France. One may use either dried or fresh herbs in a bouquet garni; however, we employ fresh herbs for our recipe.
The bouquet garni imparts herbaceous flavors into a stock, stew, or braising liquid without releasing the stems and sticks into the stock, stew, or braising liquid that this combination of herbs will inevitably produce if they are placed loosely into a pot of liquid. It is simple to make and can be used in a variety of ways:
- Toss into a bone stock or broth
- Flavor a stew
- Add it to braising liquid
- Flavor boiled beans or lentils
- Use it in poaching fish or chicken
- Throw it into a pot to flavor rice, quinoa, or farro
For more information, check out our post, “How to Make and Use Bouquet Garni.”
5 Typical Ingredients for Bouquet Garni
- Bay Leaves
- Flatleaf Parsley
- Black Peppercorns
What Is Fish Fumet?
Fish fumet is fish stock made from fish bones. For a fish fumet, boil onions, carrots, celery, bouquet garni, and fish bones in water for one hour. You may purchase fish stock for this recipe, but traditional methods encourage cooking up one’s own stock.
Visit the following section to learn what types of fish to use for your fumet.
Types of Fish to Use in the Fumet
We picked up some red snapper for this recipe. We use the heads and the bones to flavor the fumet. You may choose to use red snapper; however, the following other types of white fish are great alternatives:
Clean and Debone Your Fish
We removed the filets and the cheeks from the snapper and cooked them up for a hearty snack.
You may purchase fish bones directly from the fish store. However, we recommend you buy a couple of whole fish, remove the scales, skin, and fins, chop off the heads, remove the meaty bits, and use the remainder in the stock. The fish heads themselves add a ton of flavor! Ensure you have a sharp knife and scissors handy for this exercise.
Check out this video to learn how to clean, fillet, and debone a fish. For more tips and tricks on cooking up fish fumet, check out our post “How to Make Fish Fumet.”
Add Seafood if Your Heart Desires
Bouillabaisse typically has various types of seafood such as prawns, mussels, and clams cooked in the blended bouillabaisse once it is done.
We decided to take a different spin with this recipe that you would desire to eat night after night by adding pearl couscous and peas. The peas and toasted couscous add some sweetness that plays well the fishy flavor while adding a textural component. Instead of amping up the fishy taste, we decided to serve it with a seared buttery halibut and juicy shrimp to balance that fishiness.
Nevertheless, if you are missing those other seafood flavors, feel free to add them. The following are noteworthy additions:
Toasting the Couscous
This process adds a nutty flavor to the couscous and the dish generally. To achieve this result, sauté dry couscous in a saucepan in olive oil over medium heat. Several of the couscous pearls will become brown in color. When most of the pearls turn brown, the couscous is ready to be cooked in water. Be careful not to burn them during the toasting process.
Subsequently, add the water and cook them for approximately 10-12 minutes. Cook them until al dente. If they have reached al dente consistency and the water has not yet evaporated, strain the leftover water. Overcooked couscous becomes mushy and displeasing.
Reheating and Storage
If you are not planning on eating the entire pot of bouillabaisse, then store bouillabaisse once blended in an airtight container in the freezer. You may store it in the freezer and consume it for up to 2 months following storage.
To reheat, add the bouillabaisse to a saucepan on the stovetop at medium heat. When you add the bouillabaisse back to the saucepan to reheat, stir in unsalted butter (approximately 1 tbsp per serving) to the bouillabaisse as well as desired fish. The recipe requires you to add cold cubes of unsalted butter to finish the bouillabaisse. Disregard this step if you are planning on freezing a portion of the bouillabaisse. Cook the fresh fish in the reheated bouillabaisse when you plan to eat it.
For leftover bouillabaisse, refrigerate it in an airtight container and consume for up to 4 days. Reheat it in a saucepan on the stovetop at medium heat.
Visit your local liquor store and request a bottle featuring these characteristics to find the perfect pair.
- Color: white
- Notes: citrus, pear, white flower aroma, minerality, aged in oak
- Geography: old world
- Structure: dry, light to medium-bodied
Love your Leftovers
Warm leftover bouillabaisse in a saucepan on the stovetop at medium heat. Enjoy days after cooking with French bread. For details regarding reheating and storage, visit the reheating and storage section above.
Purge your Fridge
You just finished devouring our pea and pearl couscous bouillabaisse with seared halibut, and you are left with the following ingredients:
- Red snapper cheeks and fillets
- Pearl couscous
- 2 celery stalks
- 1/2 bulb of fennel
- Flatleaf parsley
- A handful of thyme sprigs
Sear the red snapper cheeks and fillets skin side down. When you flip the cheeks and fillets to finish cooking them, add 1-2 tablespoons of butter and leftover sprigs of thyme to the pan while basting the cheeks and fillets by spooning the liquid over the fish until cheeks and fillets are opaque or cooked. Serve atop our couscous salad or rice.
Additionally, purge your fridge of the remaining ingredients with our Asparagus and Mushroom Pearl Couscous Salad with Zhoug Dressing.
- 4 fillets halibut
- 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp each
- ground pepper
- 15 shrimp or prawns
- ground pepper
Fish Fumet (Stock)
- 1 carrot diced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 1/2 white onion diced
- 1 lemon 1/2 slice for fumet and 1/2 for garnish
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 red snapper bones and heads
- 5 cups cold water
- 2 tsp salt
Bouquet Garni (2 Sets)
- 4 bay leaves
- 4 sprigs rosemary
- 2 handfuls flatleaf parsley leaves
- 12 sprigs thyme
- 10 peppercorns
- 1 carrot diced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 1/2 onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 fennel bulb diced
- 2 medium tomatoes chopped
- 1/2 cup turmeric or ordinary Israeli pearl couscous cooked in 1 1/4 cup cold water
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 tbsp saffron threads
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter 0.5 to 1 tbsp per serving
- 1/4 cup chives
- 1/4 cup flatleaf parsley finely chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp for vegetables and 1/2 tsp for couscous
- ground pepper
1. Cut Vegetables and Prepare Bouquet Garni
- Dice carrots, white onion, celery, and fennel. Finely chop flatleaf parsley and chives. Mince garlic and slice lemons. Set aside.
- For two sets of bouquet garni, cut the cheesecloth into large squares (large enough to hold all the herbs) or two long rectangles.
- Tie up the cheesecloth into a bouquet and fasten it with a strand of twine or string. Set aside.
2. Clean and Debone Fish
- Take two whole red snapper fish. Clean and remove the scales.
- Chop off the heads of each fish. Cut out meaty parts such as cheeks and filets. Alternatively, you may purchase fish bones for this recipe.
3. Prepare the Fish Fumet
- Place a medium pot on the stovetop at medium heat. Pour olive oil into the pot. Allow it to heat.
- When the oil is hot, add carrots, white onion, and celery. Sauté for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent. Add red snapper bones and heads, sliced lemons, salt, ground pepper, and bouquet garni.
- Cover with cold water. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour. Strain through a fine sieve and set aside.
4. Cook the Vegetables for the Bouillabaisse
- Place a large pot on the stovetop at medium heat. Pour olive oil into the pot and allow it to heat.
- Add carrot, celery, white onion, and fennel. Sauté for 5 minutes. Season with salt and ground pepper. Allow vegetables for 3 to 5 minutes.
5. Add Remaining Ingredients and Blend Bouillabaisse Together
- Add chopped tomatoes and white wine into the pot.
- Raise the heat on the stovetop to medium-high. Simmer for 5 to 7 minutes or until the wine reduces by half the amount.
- Add saffron threads, bouquet garni, and fish fumet. Stir. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
- Remove the bouquet garni and use a hand blender (or a large blender) to blend well until smooth and velvety.
- Lower heat on the stovetop to low heat. Stir in cold unsalted butter.
6. Prepare the Couscous
- Place a small pot on the stovetop at medium-high heat. Add grapeseed oil and allow it to heat.
- Add pearl couscous and toast lightly for 2-3 minutes or until lightly browned. Add cold water and salt.
- Bring couscous to boil, cover, and reduce the heat on the stovetop to low heat.
- Cook for 8-10 minutes.
7. Sear the Halibut
- Season halibut with salt and pepper. Ensure the halibut filets are at room temperature before adding them to the pan.
- Place a non-stick pan on the stovetop at medium-high heat. Add grapeseed oil.
- When the oil is hot, add the halibut filets. Cook for 3-4 minutes on one side. Flip the halibut filets, add butter, and baste them in the pan by spooning the butter over each filet. Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes on the other side. Halibut fillets flake easily once cooked.
8. Cook the Shrimp or Prawns
- Season shrimp or prawns with salt and ground pepper.
- Add them to the bouillabaisse. Cook for 2 minutes.
9. Finish the Bouillabaisse
- Add cooked pearl couscous and frozen peas to the pot of bouillabaisse.
- Raise the heat on the stovetop to medium heat. Cook for 1 minute or until the peas and shrimp are cooked.
- Stir in chives and flatleaf parsley. Remove from heat.
- Toast slices of bread.
- Spoon bouillabaisse into bowls.
- Top with halibut fillets or chunks of the halibut fillets, squeeze lemon over the fish and serve with toasted slices of bread.
Absolutely amazing adaptation using traditional methods! Loved it!