The deMenthes always have seafood on Christmas Eve. Since we were visiting our son Baguette and his family in Las Vegas this year, and since our son had announced he was going to make clam chowder on Christmas Day, I decided to try my hand at bouillabaisse for Christmas Eve. This recipe is my version of one I found on the Food Network website.
2 carrots, julienned
1 bulb fresh fennel, julienned
1 leek, julienned
1 rib celery, julienned
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
10 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 strip dried orange peel
2 cups dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 quart clam juice
6 pinches saffron
1 lb clams
1 lb Chilean sea bass, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb large shrimp, peeled and veined
1 lb mussels
small lobster tails
1 can tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 egg yolks
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp fennel, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small dried chile pepper
1 pinch saffron
2 tsp olive oil
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large stockpot. Cook the carrots, fennel, leek, celery, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, garlic, and orange peel for about 5 minutes, stirring. Add wine, tomato paste, fish stock, and saffron. Bring to a simmer and cook for 8 minutes.
Add the seafood in the following order: clams (cook for 1 minute), then the sea bass (cook another minute), then shrimp, mussels, and lobster tails. Add chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 8 minutes. When the clam shells are open and the shrimp is done, it’s ready.
Serve with garlic toast and rouille.
Put all ingredients (except olive oil) in a blender and whip at low speed until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil in a steady stream so that it comes out like mayonnaise. Serve in a small bowl.
More is not always better. When I went shopping for seafood I bought too many clams and too much shrimp. The broth was so full of seafood it was hard to get the ladle into it in order to dip, and we wound up crushing some of the chunks of sea bass. It would have been better, I now think, to have used just half a pound each of clams and shrimp.
We weren’t able to find mussels in the shell, but we did find shelled mussels, and they worked out fine.
The Food Network recipe calls for a bit of anise-flavored liqueur in both the bouillabaisse and rouille, but I left that out. The fennel has a strong anise flavor, and I figured that would be sufficient. It seemed to be.