(‘Tis pronounced “boo-eel’-ya-base,” for you non-French speaking folk out there.)
So while I was making my Thanksgiving turkey roulade a la Ina Garten this past holiday, I espied a recipe for Chicken Bouillabaisse on the following pages of the book (on Amazon, look for Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics. It’s a must-have book, in my opinion.). Her picture of it is a bit better than mine, but this is kind of what I saw:
Bouillabaisse is normally a fish stew that is the regional specialty of Marseille, France, in the south of the country. It’s like a cioppino, chock full of fish and shellfish in a tomato broth. It’s served with something called a “rouille,” (pronounced “roo-wee”) which is the spicy mayo/ aioli dollop that you see on the final product at the beginning of this post. More on that later…
I have heard about bouillabaisse throughout my years a few times, but I had never tried it. As I have said, I am not a seafood guy, unfortunately, which leaves me by the wayside often, cursing my fate and left-outed-ness, as I watch others romp with maritime pleasure. But this recipe is chicken. Chicken I can do, and do with gusto to be sure.
Another tidbit that attracted me was the recipe’s use of anise seed and Pernod, which is a licorice liqueur made back in the day as a substitute for absinthe, when it had gotten a bad rap. Another part of my Mediterranean upbringing is my love of black licorice flavor, so this sat well with me as I worked through what ingredients I had and what I needed to get,
First, I had to butcher a chicken. If you haven’t gotten into Jacques Pepin and his mastery of technique, you might like to. He makes it look simple and he has a cool accent. This is the video I watched to do it: http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/how-to-butcher-a-chicken.
Why would I butcher my own chicken? Well, I happened to have had a whole chicken waiting in the fridge for its ultimate destiny. But cost has a lot to do with this, too. A “whole cut up chicken” at the supermarket costs about $1+ more a pound than the whole chicken, so you’re paying the butcher $1+ a pound to do it for you when it’s actually quite simple.
Ina’s recipe calls for fennel seed, which is available at supermarkets. But I have lots o’ anise seed on hand, so when I looked up the difference, a lot of people said that there are no differences. There are differences, I am sure, but anise seed was what I had, so that’s what I used.
This dish takes a few hours to make, but the result is an elegant winter stew that has a flavor with an unbelievable depth to it. Get some crusty bread to eat with it and you’ll feel like your in southern France, too.
Chicken Bouillabaisse (adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe)
1 4 to 5 lb. chicken, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
Salt and pepper to season the chicken
1 tbsp. minced fresh rosemary leaves
1 large head of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
1 teaspoon saffrom threads (Trader Joe’s has this cheap; everywhere else the price is exorbitant.)
1 teaspoon whole fennel or anise seeds
1 15 oz. can tomato puree
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 cup dry white wine (I used flat champagne, truth be told)
3 tablespoons of Pernod or Pastis Prado
1 lb. gold potatoes cut into 1″ chunks
rouille (recipe later)
good french bread
Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and season them with the salt, pepper, and rosemary. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Brown the chicken pieces well, doing them in batches if you have to so as to not crowd the pot. Keep the chicken on a plate wrapped in foil and set aside until later.
Lower the heat to medium low. To the pot, add the peeled garlic, saffron, fennel or anise, tomato puree, stock, wine, Pernod, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir and scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Simmer this for 40 minutes until the garlic comes apart easily when you smash it on the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
Preheat the oven to 300°.
Carefully pour the sauce into a blender or a food processor and puree until smooth. Return the sauce to the pot, and add the potatoes and the chicken with the juices left on the plate. Stir.
Cover the pot and bake this in the oven for an hour or more, until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is done. It took me 1 hour 15 minutes, but I had the good company of Cab Ernet, a friend of mine since the early days. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve this in a bowl.
(Note on the rouille: She says to dollop this on top of the bouillabaisse. My brother actually had the real deal in Marseille, and said that they take the aioli, spread it on the bread, and toast or broil the bread. You dip the bread into the stew. I might try it this way next time. While the aioli in the stew was good, it was a tad rich, and the rouille on the bread would probably be more to our tastes. Just a thought.)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tsp. salt
1 egg yolk at room temp
1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup olive oil
In a food processor, add everything except the oil. Process this until it’s smooth.
Through the feed tube with the processor still processing, pour in the olive oil in a steady stream. The result is a thick mayo with a kick to it. I made mayo! I couldn’t believe it. Transfer it to a bowl until you’re ready to boogie.
The result is elegant. I am not expert in French cuisine at all, but every time I make a French dish, I am amazed at the complexity of the flavors. A lot of their dishes take time, but the payoff is huge, and this dish is no exception.
Drinks! Red wine? Did anyone say red wine?
Until later, eat, drink, and peace out.
©Jon Marino, 2013