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Bouillabaisse (Seafood Stew) Recipe


This classic Marseilles seafood stew recipe uses a variety of fish and shellfish, including crab, squid, mussels, and lobster. It is a true seafood-lover's delight and worth the work. The seafood bones, heads, and shells are used to make the rich bouillon base of the chunky soup. You will need a very large stockpot for this recipe.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes


  • 2 pounds rock fish, filleted, cut into large chunks, bones reserved
  • 1 pound John Dory, filleted, cut into large chunks, bones reserved
  • 2 pounds rouget or red snapper, cut into large chunks, filleted, bones reserved
  • 1 pound striped bass, filleted, cut into large chunks, bones reserved
  • 2 pounds grouper, filleted, cut into large chunks, bones reserved
  • 6 blue crabs, broken into small pieces
  • 16 small squid
  • 1 cup mussels
  • Two 1-1/2 pound lobsters, head separated and crushed
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 3 Tablespoons Pastis (licorice-flavored alcohol from south of France)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 dried red chile pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 5 parsley stems
  • 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 12 to 16 baby red potatoes, steamed
  • Toasted baguette


To prepare the bouillon:
In a large, hot stockpot roast the bones of the rock fish, rouget, striped bass, grouper, crab, and the lobster heads in the olive oil. Once the bones are caramelized, add the onion, celery, carrot, fennel, and garlic. Simmer for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomatoes and cook until soft. Stir in the tomato paste and coat all of the vegetables and bones.

Add the Pastis, and cook until dry. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the peppercorns, chile pepper, bay leaf, thyme, saffron, and parsley stems, and then add enough water just to cover. Cook until the liquid has reduced by a third. Stir frequently so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

In another large pot run all of the contents of the bouillon through a medium-holed food mill and discard solids. Season the resulting bouillon with salt and pepper.

To make the bouillabaisse:
Bring the bouillon to a simmer and add the fish individually based on its thickness (thickest chunks first). Cut the lobster tail through the shell into large pieces. Add the lobster, squid, and mussels to the bouillon. Cook until the mussels open. Bring the pot to the table and ladle into large bowls.

Serve with steamed whole baby red potatoes tossed in olive oil and salt, with toasted baquette on the side to sop up the juices.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings
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