A delicious French stew inspired by the Mediterranean coast

Traveling as a chef gives you a different perspective on the places you visit. While most people are checking out the sights and experiences each city has to offer, chefs are always keeping their eyes on the cuisine – and we tend to spend a lot of time in the local markets on the lookout for new ingredients.
My recent trip to Barcelona in Spain gave me the experience of a lifetime. It’s a great foodie destination with a rich culinary heritage and a friendly local people who take their food seriously. The focal point of the Spanish cuisine, of course, is the tapas bar, which can be found on every corner – that’s where Spaniards tend to while away their hours when they have enough time to spare for a quick snack or a brunch that extends way late into the afternoon.
Being close to the ocean, seafood is abundant in Barcelona, and they use it in their local take on Spain’s most popular signature dish – paella. The Mediterranean Coast version of this traditional old Spanish mainstay inspired me so much that I became interested in experimenting with applying similar techniques to my favorite French cuisine. What proved most interesting was a blend of the flavors of the Spanish coast with the rich Provençal French stew, bouillabaisse. I’d love to share this special fusion recipe with you to try out here in Vietnam.

Mediterranean_Bouillabaisse

MEDITERRANEAN BOUILLABAISSE
Fish Stock:
5 lb of fish heads and bones
3 cups of Chardonnay
¼ cup of olive oil
3 stalks of leeks, washed and roughly chopped
4 onions, peeled and quartered
2 bunches of celery stalks, roughly chopped
Bouquet Garni:
a small bunch of thyme, parsley, dill and fresh bay leaves with 8 black peppercorns, secured in a cheesecloth and tied together.
Soup:
4 tbsp of olive oil
3 large leeks, washed and sliced
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
4 shallots, peeled and sliced
4 large potatoes, peeled and diced
Good pinch of Spanish saffron
3 tbsp of orange zest
2 cans of Italian-style tomatoes (500g)
½ lb of jumbo prawns, peeled and deveined
2 lbs of assorted fish fillets, sea bass, halibut, monkfish
½ lb of scallops
½ lb of alaskan crab legs
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed well
2 dozen manila clams, scrubbed
2 Tbsp of Pernod
Rouille:
1 roasted red bell pepper
1 potato, peeled and boiled
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp of sambal chili
1/4 cup fish stock
5 garlic cloves
A pinch each of saffron and cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Croutons:
12 baguette slices, each approximately 3/8-inch thick
1/2 cup virgin olive oil

Instructions:
For the Stock: In a large stockpot over a low to medium flame, heat the oil. Saute the leek, onion, and celery for five minutes until tender. Deglaze with Chardonnay, cooking for 5 minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Place the bouquet garni in the stockpot tied to the handle for easy removal. add the cold water & fish parts. Simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring to mingle flavors. Allow the stock to slowly simmer. Skim and discard the fish foam that rises to the surface. Do not boil! if the stock boils, these impurities will be incorporated into the liquid. Simmer for 30 minutes, turn off heat and let steep for 15 minutes. Pass the fumet through a china cap (strainer).
For the Soup: Heat the olive oil and add leeks, fennel, onions & shallots for a few minutes then add potatoes and saffron and cook over a medium heat until all the vegetables are golden and soft, about 25 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, orange zest and fish stock and bring the soup to a boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add fish, prawns, scallops, mussels and clams & simmer for 10 minutes. Then add the splash of Pernod and remove soup from the heat and cover.
For the Rouille: Broil the bell pepper, turning to blacken all sides. Place the roasted pepper in a paper bag, close it, and let it “sweat” for 5 minutes so it is easier to peel the skin. Remove from the bag, peel the skin and discard the seeds and stem. in a food processor, puree the potato, roasted pepper, mayonnaise, fumet, garlic, sambal chili, saffron and cayenne. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
For the Baguette: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly brush the baguette slices with olive oil and bake on a cookie sheet until crisp. Set aside.
Assemble: To serve, ladle the hot soup, making sure that everyone gets some prawns, scallops, mussels, clams, fish and crab legs. Spoon the rouille over the baguette and place on top of the soup and garnish with some parsley.
Bon appetit!