p Picks and Pecks: recipe: bouillabaisse

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

recipe: bouillabaisse

I got gifted a pouch of saffron recently. This is the first time that I've actually seen saffron in person - these thin, delicate stamens from the crocus. Would they actually be able to impart any flavour? They seemed so fragile. But once I kept them in a container, and opened it after storing in the fridge for a few hours, I got a whiff of soft, floral scent - reminiscent of a sweet chrysanthemum tea.

But what to do with them? I had never made anything that seemed to demand saffron, so it would seem that I needed to try out a new recipe. Serendipitously (is that even a word?), I turned on the TV, and saw Eric Ripert making bouillabaisse... when I saw him sprinkling saffron onto his chicken, I knew I was on to something!

The ingredients were pretty simple. I cut down on the ingredient list in the recipe, and just stuck to the basics: 
  • clams, 
  • squid, 
  • chicken, 
  • fennel, 
  • baby potatoes, 
  • onion and 
  • garlic.
Note: I like to give my clams a quick blanch to open them up so I can pick out any which are filled with mud and grit - one bad clam can ruin an entire pot of food! Because they're already almost cooked, I add them in a lot later in the cooking process.

I heated a Dutch oven and browned the chicken  in batches, leaving space between the pieces so that they wouldn't steam in the juices they released.

The next part happens quite quickly. I added the onion, garlic and fennel into the pan (top) and let them sweat until they started to turn brown (second picture). I then added the chicken pieces back into the pot (third picture) along with the potatoes. To this I added some tomato paste and white wine (bottom picture). 

Note: I would have added some Pernod to this, but since this was my first try I thought buying an entire bottle was a bit too much of an investment!

Once the bouillabaisse got cooking, it looked like this:

I then made the garlic aioli by mixing an egg yolk with some mustard, lemon juice and finely crushed garlic. Rather than use a food processor for this small amount, I actually beat it by hand with a whisk - its not really as hard as it sounds!

When the potatoes were cooked enough so that a skewer could be poked through, I added the clams and the squid into the simmering bouillabaisse before turning off the heat. The residual heat was enough to cook the seafood without turning the squid tough.