Bouillabaisse and Uncle Sal

I was very fortunate when I moved to Seattle. You see, my Uncle Sal lived here. (My Uncle Sal is the youngest brother of my mother.) He moved here in the early 90’s and when I graduated high school I took my first trip out here to visit him and his partner Dave. I have had fondness for Seattle ever since. But when I was offered a job here my uncles offered for me to stay with them until I got settled. Uncle Sal and I, December 2012

My Uncle Sal travels a lot being a flight attendant, and my Uncle Dave is a sheriff’s deputy. Neither of them are home often so a lot of the time it was just me, their dog Pearl, and their cat BB hanging out. It really was a perfect scenario. I would take Pearl for long walks and admire their neighborhood and BB would follow us. We made a good team those first couple of months here…Brian was still in Phoenix packing up our home with Martini and Latte. Needless to say Pearl and BB were great companions.

Pearl and BB in my Uncles living room

With both of my uncles’ crazy schedules we have not been able to catch up for months. I missed them and really wanted to spend at least an evening with them.  So about two weeks ago I planned it out with them via texts comparing schedules, finally decided on a date and we invited them over for dinner. They had not yet seen our new place, and I knew of a dish my Uncle Sal loves so I knew just what to make.

I jotted over to the fisherman’s terminal the morning they were coming by to get the freshest fish, some fish stock, and muscles. As the evening approached I started in on making a bouillabaisse along with it's traditional side of bread with red pepper rouille. When my uncles came in and sat down I told them what we were having and they were excited…my Uncle Sal exclaiming “That is my favorite!”  “I know. Why do you think I made it???” I responded. As we sat down to eat no one was saying a word. My Uncle Sal, my Uncle Dave, Brian…they were all eating and slurping away. That is when I knew I made a good meal. I couldn’t have made a more satisfying meal for them. I will be making this more often! In the end it was a great evening, I just hope we do not take too long to get together again.

Bouillabaisse

Bouillabaisse (feeds 6)

2 lbs of Cod filet, pin bones removed and cut into spoon sized pieces

2 filets of Sole (about 1 lb), cut into spoon sized pieces

1 lb of Muscles, well rinsed and de-bearded

3 stalks of celery, chopped small

2 leeks, light green and while part; chopped small

1 medium bulb of fennel, white part only; chopped small

The zest of one orange

2 tbsp of olive oil

5 sprigs of thyme

2 bay leaves

3 whole tomatoes (from a can), purred

Pinch of Saffron

1 ½ cups of dry white wine

16 oz of fish stock

Sea salt and Black pepper to taste

First, place a large soup pot (about 8 quarts) over medium heat. When heated through add in youth olive oil. When your oil becomes fragrant add in your celery, leek, fennel and orange zest. Stir it all together and let it simmer. You are looking for your veggies to soften a bit, about 3 – 5 minutes. Add in 3 sprigs of your thyme, bay leaves, your tomato puree, and some sea salt and black pepper to taste. Let it all simmer together about 3 more minutes.

Next, add in your white wine and the pinch of saffron. Let it reduce by ½ before adding in the fish stock. Watch carefully for the stock to come to a simmer.

Then, when your stock is simmering add in your chopped fish pieces. Gently stir it all (you do not want to break up youth fish too much). You are looking for your fish to turn white or opaque. That is when you know it is cooked through. Once your fish pieces are cooked though add in your muscles. Once again, gently stir and simmer until you see your muscles begin to open and remove from the heat.

Finally, give your bouillabaisse a look over. At this time you want to remove the whole thyme sprigs and bay leaves that are in it. Also check to make sure there are no unopened muscles. If so remove them and toss away. At this point I like to chop some fennel frons (if there were any), and remove the leaves on the remaining sprigs of thyme. Serve your bouillabaisse in bowls garnishing it with the fennel frons and thyme leaves.

Red Pepper Rouille

Red Pepper Rouille (makes about 1 cup)

1 clove of garlic

¼ cup of olive oil

1 lemon, juiced

¼ tsp of Dijon mustard

1 red pepper; roasted, skinned, seeded, and chopped

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Sea Salt to taste

Bread crumbs to thicken, about ¼ cup

First, in the base of a food processor place your egg yolk and your garlic. With the processor running slowly drizzle in youth olive oil and your lemon juice.

Next, add in your chopped roasted red pepper, Dijon mustard, and cayenne. Puree again until smooth. You should notice that although the consistency of your mixture is thick, it will be on the runny side.

Then, little by little add in your bread crumbs and pulse your processor to incorporate it all together. You are looking for the mixture to be thick, but spreadable. If you feel it is too thick you can always add a bit of olive oil to thin it out.

Finally, place your mixture in your refrigerator at least 30 minutes to chill and firm up before serving. Serve with freshly sliced or toasted bread along the side of your bouillabaisse.