Page-level ads

Recommended for you

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bouillabaisse and Bouillabaisse Marseillaise on French Menus and Links to Recipes for Bouillabaisse.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan Newman
A genuine bouillabaisse is a whole meal.
Do not  order an hors d’oeuvre or an entrée if
you are in a restaurant that serves  a real bouillabaisse; it is a very large meal.
A bouillabaisse ready to serve.
Photograph courtesy of nyaa_birdies_perch.
The taste of a Bouillabaisse
Bouillabaisse’s unique taste comes from a recipe that includes saffron and garlic  flavoring. That flavoring is blended with a very special fish stock, fennel, thyme, parsley, olive oil and of course, the fish.  It is not often that you have the opportunity to enjoy a dish where saffron really comes to the fore and bouillabaisse is that dish. Served alongside each diner’s bowl will be a thick rouille sauce, grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese, along with garlic toast or croutons. The rouille sauce is a made with Provence’s famous aïoli garlicky mayonnaise, to which chilies have been added to make it spicy. Worry not the diner controls the spice.
Rouille, grated cheese, and slices of toasted, garlic flavored, baguettes next to a bowl of soup.  
Photograph courtesy of erinpk. 
The rouille sauce served alongside a bouillabaisse.
Rouille sauce, the word means rust and refers to the sauce's color, is not unique to bouillabaisse;  many other French fish soups are served with a rouille sauce. All rouille sauces will be slightly different; the chef matches the rouille to correctly flavor a particular soup.  Few French recipes are really spicy and for that reason you, the diner, add the spicy bouillabaisse rouille to your individual taste. Each diner also chooses how much of the grated cheese and toast or croutons to add.  I add the rouille, firstly to the garlic toast, and taste it, then I dip  a little  in the soup and taste it again, before deciding, finally, how much of the rouille I want to add to the soup.

A serving of bouillabaisse.
Photograph courtesy of evansent.

The serving of bouillabaisse in two parts
Restaurants who enjoy presenting restaurant theatre, and have enough trained staff, serve a bouillabaisse in two parts. The serving of  bouillabaisse in two stages, when properly done, makes a wonderful meal even more enjoyable.  First served is the soup, usually with an additional bowl  placed in the center of the table; that extra bowl is on hand for second and third helpings. The soup, when the diners have finished, will be followed by the second course, the fishes that were cooked in the soup. A server, often it will be the Maitre D’, will then fillet the fish with a minimum of hand movements; a theatrical show of true expertise.

The soup from a bouillabaisse.
Photograph by courtesy of  basykes
Despite the enjoyment of the dramatics when a bouillabaisse is served in stages many truly excellent bouillabaisses are found in smaller restaurants. Restaurants that do not have the staff for separate servings may have a great chef in the kitchen; separate servings were never part of the dish’s origins.  For the original fishermen and fisherwomen’s fish stews there were no waiters around.
Bouillabaisse as it may appear on French menus.
The stamp that honors Bouillabaisse.
Bouillabaisse is part of the French soul; the French issued a stamp in its honor.
Bouillabaisse  or Le Vrai Bouillabaisse – The real Bouillabaisse.  If the restaurant is a fish restaurant, or you have a clear recommendation, then expect the real thing.  When in doubt, ask how the restaurant serves their bouillabaisse.
Bouillabaisse de Pécheur – A fisherman’s  bouillabaisse. You will see this on menus along the tourist routes in the South of France.  The small print on many of these menus note that only one to three different fish will be included, all variations come with different prices. The different types of fish affect the price as well as the taste. Just as there is no free lunch, there are no cheap versions of a real bouillabaisse. Look carefully at the menus outside restaurants that seem to offer bouillabaisse;  if there is small print read it. These variations are often far from the original and usually much smaller; however, when a whole bouillabaisse is too large a meal, say at lunchtime, consider these offerings as a fish soup and enjoy.
Bouillabaisse du Nord - A sea fish and seafood soup from the North of France. These are often excellent fish soups; unfortunately most are far from a real bouillabaisse. Despite that caveat I have often found these soups to be very good fish soups; so I just enjoy them and ignore the word bouillabaisse.
Bouillabaisse Marseillaise – The original Bouillabaisse Marseillaise recipe is claimed by the Mediterranean port city of Marseilles from sometime in the 1800’s. Many menus in the South of  France offer bouillabaisse; however, Marseilles owns the trademark.  The Charter of the Marseillaise Bouillabaisse was written much much later, in 1980. The charter sets down the rules for an authentic Bouillabaisse Marseillaise and I have noted the fish and shellfish in the charter further down this post. With or without the charter, the tradition of bouillabaisse still varies among chefs who specialize in this dish; each of these chefs will be true to a tradition, it may be that of his or her mentor, or to a recipe inherited  from his or her Grand-mère or Grand-père.

Bouillabaisse Royale – A bouillabaisse served with a half or whole spiny lobster, a langouste, on top; sometimes a crab. The spiny lobster is the owner of the lobster tail. A  Bouillabaisse Royale is clearly a dish created to impress the tourists, French or not.  Lobster tails make excellent eating, as do French crabs, but after a genuine bouillabaisse who needs one?  A real bouillabaisse is a very, very large meal.
Two crabs for a bouiliabaisse Royale. 
Photograph courtesy of diluvienne 
What is the most important ingredient in bouillabaisse?
Some of these fish may be in your bouillabaisse.
Photograph courtesy of chezrobyn.
I have been told by chefs and maître D’s in the South of France that the particular fish used in a genuine bouillabaisse are the most important ingredients; the Charter of the Marseillaise Bouillabaisse also makes this claim.  Other chefs and Maitre D’s from the same region have insisted that the fumet, the fish stock, along with the saffron are the most important ingredients.
   The fumet, the fish stock, and the saffron in a bouillabaisse.
Having enjoyed, in authentic French restaurants that were far from France, a number of excellent bouillabaisses I lean to the fumet, the fish stock, and the saffron being the most important part of  the recipe. The fish stock used is prepared with vegetables, garlic, herbs, spices, white wine and white wine vinegar and the heads and bones of fish. The fish stock, is the real secret behind the absolute bouillabaisse.
The place where bouillabaisse began and the origin of its name.
Bouillabaisse began in the port of Marseille on France’s Mediterranean coast; then it was a meal prepared by fishermen and fisherwomen as they returned home. Provencal, a dialect of Occitan, is the  language used by most of the Marseille fisher-folk, and in Provencal bouillabaisse  is a boiabaïsso.  The origin of the Provencal/Occitan word is similar  to the French; in French bouillir means to boil, and the word abaisser, means to reduce, and voila we have bouillabaisse.  Saffron the most expensive herb in the dish was always very expensive, but it was, and some saffron still is, locally grown, as are all the other herbs and spices.

Fish for sale in Marseille's old port.
Photograph courtesy of  zoonabar.
The Original Bouillabaisse
As a working fisherman's and fisherwoman’s meal the original bouillabaisse used the fish that did not sell well; fish and shellfish that were easily sold were never for the fishermen or fisherwomen or their families. Fish like John Dory or monkfish, as well as shellfish like the spiny lobster, even mussels, would all have been sold. What was left would be members of the sea robin, the scorpion fish family, along with the weever fish, the conger eel and probably the cigale de mer, the slipper lobster.  Today bouillabaisse often includes much more expensive fish along with shellfish and mussels that were never in the original recipe; we can enjoy the additions despite the implied lack of respect for the original recipe. Even the  sea robin, the scorpion fish, now that it is supplied to fish markets and restaurants without its spines, is no longer an inexpensive fish.

A bouillabaisse with some extras.
Photograph courtesy of Wil Wright.
   Bouillabaisse in New York
I enjoyed an East Coast Bouillabaisse in an exclusive Manhattan, NY, USA, restaurant, and that was not a traditional bouillabaisse either; nor did it pretend to be.  The two-clawed lobster, shrimp and the fish in the dish I was served would never have been part of any traditional bouillabaisse stew.  The soup’s taste, obviously down to a perfect fish stock, along with wonderful fish, was very close to the best that I have tasted in Provence, even the rouille was excellent; altogether it was a wonderful bouillabaisse.  Who was I to criticize a really excellent bouillabaisse that had kept its essence; even if it had strayed far from its home port.
The Charter of the Bouillabaisse Marseillaise.
In the Marseille Office de Tourisme I obtained a copy of La Charte de la Bouillabaisse Marseillaise, the Charter of the Marseillaise Bouillabaisse.    The charter was written in 1980 by a group of 3 Marseillaises restaurateurs and is dedicated to preserving the traditional bouillabaisse recipe. The original 3 have since been joined by many others from France and elsewhere. They may not succeed in ensuring that every chef uses the same fish, but if they preserve the taste that is enough. While the Marseillaise Bouillabaisse charter insists on the use, where possible, of  the original fish it does allow for the use of a number of different and more expensive fish and shellfish when the originals are not available.
Directions to the next bouillabaisse.
                A road sign in  the town of St Raphael on the Mediterranean coast.
150 kms from Marseilles.
Photograph courtesy of diluvienne.
The Marseilles Charter requires that at least four fish from the six fish indicated below must be used in any  genuine Bouillabaisse  Marseillaise:

The sea robin family, scorpion fish, on sale in the Marseille, old port.
A number of different family members on sale.
Picture by courtesy of marcovdz
Araignée also called Vive Araignée – The spotted weaver. This is a beautiful fish; however, it is not enjoyed for its beauty, its taste is even more enjoyable.  Its name means spider and is not to be confused with the crab araignée or the unique French cut of beef also called araignée.  
Chapon,  the local name, the Rascasse Rouge or Truie elsewhere in France - The Large Scaled or Red Scorpion Fish, a member of the sea robin family.  A chapon in French is a capon in English and this fish is certainly is not a member of the chicken family. When they are caught weighing over 400 grams they will make Mediterranean menus on their own.

The chapon, the red scorpion fish.
Photograph courtesy of Jean-Loup Castaigne.
All the sea robin family members are very tasty fish; but when they are small they are very bony, hence the smallest of these fish will be in many Mediterranean fish soups.  These tasty fish have excellent white meat and the larger sized fish will be menus on their own when grilled or sautéed. The sea robin’s other family name is the scorpion fish as they have poisonous barbs in their backs; for that reason originally these fish were not easily sold. Today these poisonous barbs are removed when the fish are caught or later in the fish markets; the restaurants and the public may buy them without any problems.
Congre  – The conger eel or the European conger eel. The meaty conger eel is part of many other French fish soups, including the traditional Basque fish soup Ttoro and the Corsican Aziminu.

Conger eel  concealing its size in a rock.
Photograph courtesy of cquintin
 Gallinette, Grondin Gallinette – The Common Searobin, another member of the scorpion fish family; a bony small fish,  highly valued for its flavor.  This fish will be in many Mediterranean fish soups; however,  for those dining on bouillabaisse in Germany or Italy I have not found this fish’s name in their languages.
Petite Rascasse Rouge, Scorpène -  The small red scorpion fish.
Rascasse Blanche  or Uranoscope -  The stargazer; another member of the scorpion fish or sea robin family.
The other fish and shellfish that the Marseillaise 
Bouillabaisse charter permits:
Baudroi  in Provence; Lotte in the rest of France. – The monkfish or Angler Fish. This is one of the tastiest of all sea fish with succulent, firm, white meat; it is such a tasty and adaptable fish that it will be on many menus on its own, and not just in fish restaurants.  See the post: Lotte or Baudroie-Monkfish.
Cigale de Mer  - The slipper lobster; the only seafood traditionally included in a genuine bouillabaisse. The slipper lobsters are a whole family of short-clawed lobsters; the members of this family when caught in the Mediterranean sea are generally quite small, under 20 cms.  There were, in all probability,  part of the original  recipe. in other dishes only the tail of this small lobster will be served as only the tail has any meat;  slipper lobster tails, though smaller and a little tougher, when served on their own, are prepared with recipes created for rock lobster tails.

The Cigale de Mer.
Photograph courtesy of Philippe Guillaume
Langouste  - The spiny lobster or rock lobster; this is the owner of the well-known lobster tail.  Langoustes on their own are often served with recipes originally created for the much more expensive homard, the two-clawed lobster.  

Choose your own cold lobster tail mayonnaise
Photograph courtesy  of Moxieg
Saint Pierre  –  St Peter’s fish; in North America and the UK this is the fish called John Dory.  This is one of France’s most popular fish and will be on many menus whether in fish restaurants or not.  See the post: The Saint-Pierre, that unique fish.
John Dory underwater
Away from the Mediterranean French chefs choose other fish to prepare a bouillabaisse and the extended family of  sea robins, scorpion fish, have members all over the world. With a carefully prepared fish stock and the use of the right herbs, when away from home French chefs may still produce excellent bouillabaisses.
Recipes for bouillabaisse and links to them.

This blog was written for those who like me love French cuisine but prefer to be less involved in the cooking; for that reason I keep away from including recipes.

Despite that, from my original post on bouillabaisse, there were questions about what goes into a good home-made bouillabaisse in North America and the UK, and other English speaking countries.

To provide some answers, despite my own limitations as a cook, I Googled and Binged recipes for bouillabaisse in English; it was then that I realized that there truly was a problem. I found many, if not most, English recipes for bouillabaisse begin with shellfish  and fish that are not found in any traditional French bouillabaisse recipe.  At the same time I looked at the herbs included and there I found English language recipes  that suggest a “pinch” of saffron!  How can you get the taste of a genuine bouillabaisse for six  or more people with a " pinch" of saffron?

Following on my disappointment in  the UK and North American recipes that I had found I checked up on French recipes. An incredible difference; nearly all of the French recipes that I Googled and Binged etc., keep much closer to the fish, herbs and spices in traditional recipes. Most of the fish in those recipes either are available or have close family members available all around the world.
Chrome and IE offer automatic translation of foreign language web sites and I believe that all the others do as well; the translations may not be perfect but  for recipes the overall idea is very clear and the quantities and times hardly need translation.  For  the recipes noted below the translations were very good.  I also use automatic translations for Chinese and other language web sites and they also offer, mostly, understandable translations.
The four recipes shown below I have chosen for their choice of fish and the herbs and spices to be used. I have not tested a single one. They all look good and I hope they are.

Connected links:


The names of the fish in this post in a number of other languages:
 Araignée also called Vive Araignée – The spotted weaver. (Chinese (Mandarin) - ), (Greek -Τραχυσκορπιός -  Trachyskorpios ),  (Spanish  - rascacio espinoso),  (German -geflecktes Petermännchen, mittelländische queise, mittelländisches Petermännchen), (Italian -  tracina, ragno trachino, raggiato, trachino rigato), (Spanish – arena). (Latin - trachinus araneus).
Baudroie  or  Lotte – The Monkfish or Anglerfish. (Chinese (Mandarin) -  鮟鱇), (Danish - almindelig havtaske, Europæisk havtaske), (Dutch – zeeduivel, hozemond), (German -  seeteufel  or angelfisch), (Greek - Πεσκαντρίτσα , vatrochópsaro), (Italian - coda di rospo, rana perscatrice or diavolo di mare), (Rumanian - peste pescar),   (Russian - черт морской , Удильщик европейский (=морской черт),  (Ukranian -  morskoi chert), (Spanish – lophius  or rape), (Turkish – fener balagi), (Latin - lophius piscatorius) 
Chapon  or Rascasse rouge – The Large Scaled or Red Scorpion Fish. (Chinese (Mandarin) - 南非鮋赤鮋 ), (German – meersau, roter drachenkopf), (Greek- Χάφτης, Σκορπίνα, skorpina),  (Italian - scarpena rossa, scorfano mediterraneo),  (Portuguese -  rascasso-vermelho). Russian - скорпена красная, zolotistaya skorpena). (Spanish – cabracho, escarapote, gallineta), (Swedish - Havssugga), (Turkish -  lipsoz), (Latin - scorpaena scrofa ).
Cigale de Mer  - The slipper lobster. (German –bärenkrebs and groser bärenkrebs), (Italian – magnosella and magnosa), (Spanish – santiaguiño  and cigarra). (Latin - scyllarides latus).
Gallinette, Grondin Gallinette – The Common Searobin. (Chinese (Mandarin) -   小口鋸魴鮄),(Spanish - rubio gallineta), (Latin - prionotus ruscarius ).  Help with this fish’s name in other languages will be appreciated.
Langouste  - The spiny lobster or rock lobster; this is the owner of the well-known lobster tail.  (Chinese (Mandarin ) - - xiǎo lóngxiā), (German – Europäische languste, stachelhummer or langustenschwänze), (Greek – αστακού, astakoú),
 (Hebrew  -לובסטר קוצני - - lobster kotzni), (Indonesian - udang karang ),(Italian -  aragosta), (Malay – udang) (Portuguese – lagosta),(Spanish – langosta, llangosta). (Russian – лангуст – langus), (Tagalog – ulang), (Turkish – langust), (Latin - palinurus elephas).
Petite Rascasse Rouge, Scorpène -  The  Small Red Scorpion Fish. (Chinese (Mandarin) - 显鲉), (Danish - lille dragehovedfisk), (German - kleiner roter drachenkopf)  (Hebrew -  עַקְרַבְנוּן שְׁחֹר-כֶּתֶם ), ( Greek -Λειψός, Σκορπιό - skorpidi), (Italian - cappone, scrofana tignusa, scrofaneddu), (Russian - Malaya skorpena), (Portuguese - rascasso-escorpião), (Latin -   scorpaena notata )
 Rascasse Blanche  or Uranoscope -   Stargazer. Arabic (Egyptian) -kott), (Arabic (Lebanese) – Boûmâly), (Chinese (Mandarin) - 头鰧), (Danish - Europæisk stjernekigger), (German – Himmelsgucker), (Greek - Λυχνί,Λύχνος - lichnos, lychnos),(Italian - pesce prete,lucerna mediterranea), (Portuguese - cabeçudo), (Rumanian - bou de mare),(Russian - evropeiskiy zvezdochet), (Spanish - rata), (Swedish -stjärnkikarfisk), (Turkish -kurbağa balığı), (Latin -   uranoscopus scaber).
 Saint Pierre  –  In North America and the UK this is the fish called John Dory. (Chinese (Mandarin) - 日本海魴 , 澳洲海魴  - hǎi fáng, Rì běn hǎi fang), (Dutch zonnevis),  German  -peterfisch, heringkonig, Sankt Petersfisch, Europäischer, heringskönig), ( Hebrew -  ג'ון דורי – John Dory), (Italian –pesce San Pietro, pesce gallo,  Sanpietro, pesce di Cristo), (Korean - 달고기, Tal-go-gi), (Malay – dory tompok),  (Portugues – galo-negro),( Rumanian - dulgher), (Russian - Солнечник обыкновенный ), (Spanish – pez de San martin, gall, gall de la mar, gall de San Pedro, gallo, pez de San Pedro). (Ukrainian - solnechnik), (Turkish - dikenlipeygamber balığı), (Latin - zeus faber)

Thanks for help with translations:
Many of these fishes’ names were translated with the help of chefs and waiters and in Europe many came from restaurant menus. The others, especially those with special calligraphy requirements came with the help of FishBase, Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2013. FishBase, World Wide Web electronic publication., version (12/2013).

Bryan G. Newman
Behind the French Menu.
Copyright 2010, 2014

For more information on the book behind this blog contact Bryan Newman

No comments:

Post a Comment