Serious Eats: Recipes

French in a Flash: Chilean Sea Bass with Bouillabaisse Broth

Editor's note: This post marks the first of former Serious Eats intern Kerry Saretsky's French in a Flash series. After this one they will run on Thursdays each week. Bon app├ętit!

These days are not the times for heedless extravagance. But, still, no circumstances could or should require the complete abandon of food that is elegant, chic, gratifying, and, of course, ultimately delicious. The one thing you can never take from a French girl like me is joie de vivre. Growing up in New York, I witnessed firsthand the reputation French food has for walking hand-in-hand with Le Cirque price tags. But I got all the fanciful allure and peasanty goodness of real French food free at my mother's kitchen table. With this new series, I will show you how to make fresh, modern takes on French classics in just minutes. No Cordon Bleu degree required. So run out and buy the ingredients, and I'll provide the pinch of je ne sais quoi that makes French food so irresistible.

This week, we are starting with an avant-garde bouillabaisse.

Bouillabaisse is a fish stew from the port city of Marseille (where my mother was born), flavored and stained with saffron. It is hearty but light, exotic but comforting, all at once. It can contain any jumble of seafood, but in this deconstructed (and oh so simple to make) version, the buttery Chilean sea bass is seared separately from the almost-instant broth, and is served perched on a bed of onion, fennel, and tomatoes, afloat in a sea of bouillabaisse sauce studded with onyx-black mussels, and creamy little rock shrimp. I can't imagine any thick, flaky fish that this recipe would not work for, so go ahead and substitute salmon or halibut or swordfish, and adjust your cooking time accordingly. For that matter, you could use clams and calamari instead of mussels and rock shrimp. You are Monet, and bouillabaisse is your canvas. Bouillabaisse and other southern French fish soups are traditionally served with rouille, a little side aioli made with bread crumbs, garlic, saffron, and peppers. This dish takes less than 30 minutes to make, including my "shortcut" rouille, and is impressive enough to serve to kings. As we say en famille, "bon app"!

A Note on Some Ingredients

Canned tomatoes that are "petite diced" are readily available--you'll notice them once you stop to look for them. If you can't find them, however, don't despair; simply drain a can of regularly diced tomatoes, and give them a rough chop to avoid any huge chunks.

Fish stock can be elusive in the regular grocery store for some reason. For this recipe I used Fumet de Poisson Gold, a little disc full of concentrated fish stock that I bought at Whole Foods. I then diluted 1 tablespoon of the concentrate in 2 1/2 cups hot water, and let it set and dissolve together covered for an hour before using.

Try to find rock shrimps that are previously peeled and deveined if you can, to save yourself some work. Substituting with regular shrimp is totally fine.

When cooking with mussels, remember the golden rule: throw out any open shells before cooking, and any closed shells after cooking.

About the author: Kerry Saretsky is the creator of French Revolution Food, where she reinvents her family's classic French recipes in a fresh, chic, modern way.

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