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First Time with Julia Child's Bouillabaisse

Updated on May 22, 2011

Bouillabaisse. It's so fun to say. Boo-ya-baze. At least, I'm pretty sure that's how you say it. I've never had it before today and I never even knew exactly what it was. But, I recently purchased The French Chef Cookbook by Julia Child, which is not the same as Mastering the Art of French Cooking, because that was a little out of my ten dollar budget, although I would like to get it one day.  This book contains the recipes from Child's television series, The French Chef.  I thought about doing the book in its entirety from the very beginning, but I could just not get myself to be excited for chicken and risotto. 

So while I was sitting in the car with my parents yesterday-- Yes, I'm twenty and still go grocery shopping with my parents about every weekend-- I had my cookbook with me. I decided to flip the book open to any random page and see what it would give me. 

Bouillabaisse.  Mediterranean Fish Stew. I love seafood and the Mediterranean, though I've never been (maybe it's just because of those pirate movies) but for some reason it sounded absolutely incredible.  And looked even better when I looked up a picture of it on my phone.

Speaking of pictures, it occurred to me, once done with this recipe that I hadn't taken any pictures for this Hub, which was really disappointing and I hope you all forgive me.

Now I will do my best to walk you all through my process of making Julia Child's bouillabaisse. 

It's supposed to consist of various types of fish and shellfish, if you want them.  The recipe recommends 5 or 6 different kinds, soft fleshed and firm fleshed.  But i don't know much about the texture of fish, or anything like that. So i pretty much just "winged it" like I do with most things I try.  I picked out tilapia, which I suppose is pretty firm in texture, whiting, which is a lot softer than the tilapia, and then a seafood mix of baby scallops, shrimp and squid.  I would have liked to add mussels instead of the squid, but I couldn't find anything that looked good enough at the grocery stores we visited.  I'm sure crab and lobster would have been delicious in it as well.

One thing that was difficult for me to find was the clam juice, because the way I did it, I used frozen fish fillets instead of fresh fish which included the heads and bones and such, so I couldn't really make a broth out of that.  So, the recipe says clam juice is a good substitute, but it was no where to be found.  Instead I ended up making shrimp stock, because my shrimp had skins on them still.  This added an extra step for me because I wasn't thinking and made the shrimp stock and then made the soup broth, which is essentially the same thing.  

Once I began making the broth, it smelled incredible.  I added a bunch of herbs that weren't on the ingredients list, like rosemary and sage, but I didn't have (and couldn't find) any saffron or fennel. I know what you're thinking, and I'm not sure what kind of grocery stores I go to either, but the rosemary and sage worked out pretty well, so if, like me you couldn't find some herbs, just mix in what you have and it should work out!  

After having mixed all the broth ingredients together, and bringing to a rapid boil for about 5 minutes, the broth then had to sit at a low boil for about 45 minutes to an hour, uncovered.  after about 45 minutes, the broth was a little thicker, and looked and smelled great.  DO NOT let it get very much thicker than this, because it gets extremely reduced, and straining it becomes really difficult, and you aren't left with very much broth.  In which case, I added some water... I know, I know, it sounds awful, but honestly the soup was so flavorful that a little bit of water didn't take too much away from it.  

After straining for about 10 minutes, you may either put your broth away until about 20 minutes prior to serving, or put it in the refrigerator until you're ready to use it another day.  Once ready to use it, bring it to a rapid boil for about 5 minutes, and then add the firm fleshed fish that you have chosen, bring once again to a rapid 5 minutes boil and then add the shellfish and soft flesh fish.  Again bring to a rapid boil for 5 minutes and make sure not to overcook the fish.  I wasn't really too concerned with this part... I've never cooked fish before.

Now the recipe says to remove the fish from the broth and serve them on two separate platters and I just thought that was a waste of dishes and time. So, I served the soup and the fish together in one bowl per person along side a big piece of garlic bread to dunk in the soup. 

This having been my first time to try this recipe, I thought it turned out well, but there are definitely improvements that could be made and mistakes that could have been avoided, which I will be more careful of next time.

All I have to say is, if there is a recipe out there that you are nervous about trying, but really want to, DO IT!  If you're confident in yourself as a cook, I think it will turn out tasting good, even if you don't do everything right, which I hardly ever do myself.  And you can always try again. :)

Happy Cooking!



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