I love Julia Child. I love her writing style, her passion for cooking and I love the way she loves both food and Paul (her husband).
But she uses ingredients I'd never use. Like canned pimento instead of a roasted red pepper.
And equipment I don't have. Like a large mortar and pestle for making a sauce. I use a Cuisinart.
In later books, she embraces modern equipment like food processors, and <quelle horreur> the microwave oven. But in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," everything is old school.
In the memoir, her Provençal soup base is simple. Garlic, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, fennel, saffron, thyme, bay and "usually a bit of dried orange peel." And fish.
When serving it she adds a rouille, 'rust' in French. It's like mayo meets harissa.... garlic, chili and red pepper, potato, olive oil and a bit of soup. It adds texture and thickens the soup.
Her recipes are immaculate; well written and thoroughly researched. Naturellement I decided to strike out on my own, using her recipe as a springboard.
The tomato base is made first, then the clams and fish are cooked separately and added to a large bowl, (or individual bowls) before serving.
A peeled potato, cooked in the soup, is the base for the rouille.
2 qts Fish stock*
1 each medium potato (peeled, whole) for the rouille
3 14 oz cans of tomatoes or 2 quarts of home-made, canned tomatoes or 2 boxes of Pomi strained tomatoes
2 cups tomato juice (I used my own tomato juice, if you have V-8 on hand, use it. If not, don't stress -- just leave it out.)
2 cups white wine (dry, for cooking)
1/2 can (or 2 heaping tablespoons) tomato paste
1 bulb fennel, medium dice
1 large onion, medium dice
3 stalks celery, medium dice
2 carrots, peeled, small dice
Dried peel of one orange or two tangerines
2 pounds shrimp, cleaned but not pre-cooked
2 pounds clams
+/- 2 pounds fish (or 4 filets) something firm. Cod works well, as would salmon
3 Tbsp butter
1-1/2 cup dry white wine
Saute the onion, celery, fennel and carrot in olive oil. When wilted and fragrant, deglaze with the fish stock. Add the tomato products, bay, potato and orange peel and simmer for 30 - 45 minutes. Remove the potato when it is fully cooked. Set aside. Simmer soup for 30 minutes more.
About 30 minutes before you plan to eat, make the rouille, and set aside.
15 minutes before supper time, put the shrimp in the soup and steam the clams in 1 cup of dry white wine. Put the steamed clams (and shells) in individual bowls or a large serving bowl. Pour the steaming liquid (also called nectar) through a fine mesh strainer, set aside.
Poach the fish in the clam/wine nectar augmented with a half cup of wine if needed. When the fish is done, set aside. Put the poaching liquid in the bouillabaisse. Check the seasoning of the soup. Add butter.
Drink the remaining wine.
Ladle soup over the clams. Break up the fish gently with your fingers, add to the bowl, and top with more soup. The goal here is to have chunks of fish in the soup.
Top with rouille, serve with crusty French bread.
4 ea cloves of garlic, smashed
1 red pepper either fire-roasted, steamed, skinned and seeded or roughly chopped and sauteed in olive oil.
1 ea potato (taken from soup above or boiled until done)
3 or 4 Tbsp XVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1 ea chili pepper soaked in boiling water for as much time as you can spare OR a few drops of Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon (or more) Herbes de Provence
3 Tbsp soup
Place the garlic, red pepper, chili pepper, potato and herbes de Provence in the bowl of a food processor. Process until almost the thickness of paste. With the food processor running, add the olive oil slowly until the mix starts to emulsify. Add a few tablespoons of soup and adjust seasoning.
Wow! What a fantastic soup.The rouille was essential to the texture of the soup and it really pumped up the garlicky flavor.
PS: I'm sorry there weren't any photographs but the soup was consumed as soon as it hit the table.
* Fish stock (aka fish fumet): bring two quarts of water, chopped fennel, onion, and celery, two quartered lemons and one cup of white wine to a boil. Add fish heads--two or three-- (I got salmon heads for $1 a pound at Powell Blvd. Fish Market in SE Portland) and whatever fish trim you have on hand. Simmer for 45 minutes to one hour. Overcooking a fumet does not improve the flavor -- it just makes it bitter and muddy colored.