Bouillabaisse with saffron aioli crostini

Bouillabaisse with saffron aioli crostini

May 16, 2022

Bouillabaisse with saffron aioli crostini

Serves 12

 As the epitome of elegance, this dish is perfect for special occasions. A bouillabaisse is a fish stew originating from the port city of Marseille. To me, there are two important elements to this dish, the saffron and the fla­vor that comes from a homemade broth made with the fish bones, shells, and skins. I make the broth the night before so that I can have more time with my guests. Bon Appetit!


      1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
        ½ teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
          ¾ cup mayonnaise
            3 tablespoons olive oil
              2 large garlic cloves, peeled and pressed


                2 ½ pounds white potatoes
                  ¾ cup olive oil
                    3 leeks (white parts only), well rinsed, coarsely chopped
                      1 fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
                        1 large onion, coarsely chopped
                          6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped


                        To make the saffron aioli:

                        Dissolve saffron in the lemon juice in a small glass bowl. Then mix in mayonnaise, olive oil, and garlic. (Saffron Aioli can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and refrigerate).

                        To make the bouillabaisse:

                        Place potatoes in a medium saucepan of cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Continue boiling until a knife pierces the potatoes center easily, about 20 minutes. Cool the potatoes, then peel. Cut potatoes into 1/3-inch thick rounds. (Potatoes can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before using.)

                        Heat oil in a very large wide pot over medium heat. Add leeks, fennel, onion, garlic, saffron, dried red pepper, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables soften, but do not brown, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add water, wine, clam juice, tomatoes, tomato paste, lobster shells, and shrimp shells and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

                        Set a large strainer over a large bowl. Pour the shellfish mixture into the strainer. Press on the solids with the back of a large spoon, releasing as much liquid as possible. You should have about 4 cups. (Shellfish broth can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.)

                            1 ½ teaspoons crumbled saffron threads
                              ¾ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
                                10 fresh thyme sprigs
                                  6 fresh parsley sprigs
                                    3 bay leaves
                                      3 quarts water
                                        1 ½ cups dry white wine
                                          12 ounces bottled clam juice or fish stock
                                            9 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
                                              6 tablespoons tomato paste
                                                2 lobster tails, shells removed and reserved, lobster meat cut into 1~inch pieces
                                                  30 large uncooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, end of tails left intact, shells re­served
                                                    3 tablespoons Pernod or Ricard
                                                      30 mussels, scrubbed, de-bearded
                                                        30 littleneck clams, scrubbed
                                                          1 ½ pound snapper, cut into 2-inch pieces
                                                            1 ½ pound halibut, cut into 2-inch pieces
                                                              1 loaf pane rustica bread, thinly sliced crosswise, toasted


                                                            Pour the shellfish broth into the same large pot. Add Pernod and bring to a boil. Add mussels and clams. Cover and cook over high heat until the mussel and clamshells open, about 4 minutes. Discard any shells that do not open. Using a slotted spoon, transfer clams and mussels to a large bowl; cover. Add fish, shrimp, and lobster to the broth and cook over low heat until the fish is opaque in the center, about 4 minutes. Season to taste with salt.

                                                            Divide sliced potatoes with mussels and clams among 10 large shallow bowls. Ladle soup over the potatoes. Spread aioli over slices of toast and place atop soup. Serve immediately.


                                                            There are many ways I have served this dish—as a refined plated dinner or with the help of all guests standing around the island in my kitchen. A bit of wine and lots of laughs helped me to dole out tasks. Everyone loves being part of preparing the meal.


                                                            Ask your fish monger to remove the shrimp and lobster from the shells and skin the fish for you, and reserve them separately. The shells will be simmered in the broth, adding a rich depth of flavor.

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