My husband and I make this bouillabaisse together. It works for a formal dinner party or a casual buffet. We either serve it from a big ceramic bowl or from the pot in which it cooked. At a buffet our guests help themselves to portions in deep bowls, with bread and salad on the side.
- Generous pinch of saffron threads
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 leek, cleaned, trimmed, and chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- ½ cup chopped fennel
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes
- ½ cups clam juice
- About 1½ cups dry white wine
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 18 mussels, scrubbed
- 12 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1½ pounds black sea bass, red snapper, or flounder fillets, cut into 12 pieces
- Crushed red chile flakes, optional
Place the saffron in a small bowl, add ½ cup boiling water, and set aside. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the leek, celery, onion, fennel, and garlic. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes to wilt the vegetables. Add the bay leaf, thyme, tomatoes, clam juice, wine, and fennel seeds. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 5 minutes.
Add the saffron and its soaking liquid and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes more.
Remove the bay leaf.
Bring back to a steady simmer and add more wine if needed. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.
Add the mussels, cook for 5 minutes, then add the shrimp. Cook another 5 minutes, then add the fish. Reduce the heat to very low and simmer until the mussels have opened and the shrimp and fish have cooked through. Remove any mussels that haven’t opened. Check the seasoning, adding some red chile flakes if desired and an extra drizzle of oil. Serve with croutons or crusty bread.
Nutritional information is based on 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving.