The first time I thought I really love seafood bouillabaisse is when I tried it as a restaurant called Graze MCA adjacent to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney in Circular Quay. It is a venue not only to go to if you want an excellent view of Sydney Harbour and the Opera House but they do an excellent seafood bouillabaisse too and if they don't already call it as such, I would call it their signature dish having come back to try it a few times. It is one thing to have fresh seafood at hand when making a dish and it's another to give it enough depth of flavour so that the seafood, particularly if using a denser sort of fish like barramundi or salmon, are seasoned and balanced with enough flavour where you are looking for something more than just salt and a squeeze of lemon. After perusing one of my favourite recipe book in my spare time from Depot Eatery, a little establishment run by Al Brown I went back to numerous times when I visited Auckland in New Zealand earlier in the year, I came across a bouillabaisse stock recipe the book suggests, which gave me enough confidence that if I spent the time creating it, I think it would be a pretty damn good seafood bouillabaisse judging from the food I tried at that venue. Having tasted the Graze MCA seafood bouillabaisse, I was a little sceptical on recipes that label a bouillabaisse recipe as 'Easy Bouillabaisse' as I think from tasting the Graze MCA bouillabaisse there is quite some complexity in this broth that an 'easy bouillabaisse' short cut recipe cannot replicate or do justice too.
So here is the recipe from the Depot Eatery biography and recipe book and there were some ingredients where I thought "what's that?" thinking perhaps it was New Zealand jargon or produce so just Googled it and used the next best substitute instead and I will indicate below if I have done that.
I did it all in one day but you can do it in parts and put part of it in the fridge and come back to the later parts another day. The key ingredient in a seafood bouillabaisse is the stock and there are two parts to making the broth alone: the fish stock and the bouillabaisse stock. Just enjoy the process of creation!
Step 1: Fish Stock
2 tablespoons canola oil (I used coconut oil and that seemed fine)
1-2 medium sized fish frames (you can ask for this at the fish markets & I left out the head)
1 cup roughly chopped onion
1 cup roughly chopped celery
1 cup roughly chopped fennel bulb
1 bay leaf
2 tarragon stalks
4 sprigs thyme
3 litres of cold water
Place a stockpot on medium heat. Add the canola oil, then the chopped fish frames, onion, celery and fennel. Sweat for 10 minutes, stirring often. Add in the herbs, then pour over the cold water and stir gently to combine.
Bring the stock up to a gentle simmer and cook for 25 minutes without stirring. Use a ladle or spoon to skim any scum from the surface.
Take off the heat, and cool on the benchtop for 30 minutes. Without stirring, pour the stock through a fine sieve into a container, then refrigerate until required.
Step 2: Bouillabaisse Stock
1/3 cup olive oil
2 crayfish bodies with legs, gut removed, cleaned and cut into pieces
1 onion, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 stalk celery, roughly chopped
1 fennel bulb, sliced
1 teaspoon, fennel seeds
1 pinch saffron
1 star anise
1 teaspoon Spanish smoked sweet paprika
peel of 1 orange
6 tablespoons table salt (I thought this was a bit heavy so used 4 teaspoons and that seemed fine)
1/2 cup tomato paste
4 tarragon stalks
6 parsley stalks
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup Pernod (I used white wine instead and that works)
1 kg vine ripened tomatoes, halved and seeded (that I used less like 3 tomatoes)
3 litres of fish stock (from Step 1)
Place a stockpot on medium-high heat. Add your olive oil and crayfish, and cook for 5-10 minutes to colour, stirring often. Add in the onion, carrot, celery and fennel, then cook for 10 minutes until vegetables are caramelised, stirred occasionally.
Mix through the spices, orange peel and salt, and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Stir through tomato paste and herbs, and cook for a further 5 minutes until sticky and caramelised.
Add the Pernod (in my case the white wine) with your tomatoes to the pot. Now pour in the fish stock. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes (you need to watch it as I put in a bit less water and you don't want all the broth evaporating!). Set the bouillabaisse stock aside for 30 minutes to cool, then pass through a fine sieve using the back of a ladle to push as much of the pulp through as possible (although if you are like me and pot is too big and heavy and you don't want to risk spilling the precious broth you have just made, get a large soup spoon and scoop just the broth out onto another pan if you are using it straight away or store in a container and refrigerate or freeze it until required.
Step 3: Making your Seafood Bouillabaisse
a selection of your favourite fish (preferably a nice firm fish), shell fish and crayfish - I used ocean trout, tuna, green tiger prawns (shell taken out and it's back vein removed); Moreton Bay bugs, scallops
Place a pan or stockpot in medium heat. Add the bouillabaisse stock and bring to simmer. Crop in your shell fish like prawns and crayfish and simmer for 5 minutes. Place your fish pieces in the broth and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes until the fish is cooked through. Remove from the heat. And your seafood bouillabaisse is ready to serve it with some fresh artisan bread.
Phew! Your patience in the process of creation will be so worth it. My pairing was a James Estate Hunter Valley 2013 Pinot Noir because I like my wines lighter on the palate and complements the flavours of this seafood dish. Enjoy!