Bouillabaisse is a French fisherman’s stew that has been popularized across the United States, showing up on many a “fancy” restaurant’s menu.  My French friend, Amelie, would turn up her nose whenever bouillabaisse was trotted out as exemplary French cuisine.  “We do not eat that,” she would state.  Quite rightfully.  Bouillabaisse is considered peasant food.  In its simplest form it is a fragrant broth made out of seafood scraps – made and consumed by those that could not afford choicer cuts of meat.


This was my first attempt at making bouillabaisse, and I found it to be fairly simple to make.  Although, I’ll admit cooking a whole fish, head and all, was a little intimidating.  Just the thought of the eyeballs still makes me queasy.  But the broth was sooooooo tasty.



  • 2 lb. Fish (I used a whole red snapper)
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil + 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 sliced Shallots
  • 1 sliced Fennel Bulb
  • 3-4 sprigs of Thyme
  • 1-2 sprigs of Rosemary
  • 3-4 Bayleaves
  • Salt and Pepper (Black and White)
  • pinch of Saffron
  • 1 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 8 cups Water
  • 3-4 Cloves minced Garlic
  • 1 cup diced Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup White Wine
  • 2 lb Mussels
  • Bread to serve with.


  1. Breakdown the fish: remove the scales and if it is too big for the stew pot cut off the head or/and tail.  The whole fist should eventually go into the stew pot, head, bones, fins, and all.
  2. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in the bottom of a large stew pot.
  3. Sauté the shallots and fennel in the hot oil.
  4. Add the herbs and tomato paste.
  5. Add the fish.
  6. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour in the water, and bring the fish stock to a slow boil.
  8. Allow the stock to cook for about 15-20 minutes, before you remove the fish.
  9. Remove the fish from the stock, and carefully pull the meat off of the bones.  Make sure to remove all of the smaller fish bones.
  10. Set the fish meat aside for later, and place the remaining bones and skin back in the stew pot.
  11. Continue to cook the stock for about another 40 minutes.
  12. Lift the stew pot off of the heat, and pour the broth through a colander so that all of the fish bones, vegetable bits, and herbs get removed form the broth.  There should be no solid bits in your fish broth.
  13. In another large stew pot, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.
  14. Add the minced garlic to the hot olive oil.
  15. Sauté the garlic briefly before adding the diced tomatoes.
  16. Season with salt and pepper.
  17. Add the white wine.
  18. Allow the white wine to cook down slightly.
  19. Add the mussels to the pot, and cover the pot with a lid.
  20. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the mussels begin to open.
  21. Pour the fish broth into the pot with the mussels.
  22. Add the remaining fish meat.
  23. Reheat the broth and fish meat: 10-15 minutes.
  24. Serve with french bread.

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