Photo by Johnny Miller; Food styling by Roscoe Betsill
The fancy name translates simply to “fish stew,” but our simplified take on the dish still delivers a mouthful. Bouillabaisse is a classic French fishermen’s stew that’s usually loaded with as many kinds of fish and shellfish as will fit into a pot. Taking a cue from the Grand Poobah of fish cookery, chef Eric Ripert of New York’s Le Bernardin, we’ve simplified the dish down to its essence and, with the inclusion of potatoes and butter-roasted walleye, tailored it for the Midwestern angler. Crusty bread is ideal for lapping up the broth, as is a spoon.
– 4 or more walleye fillets (enough to serve four people)
– 4 Tbsp. olive oil
– 1 small yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
– 1 bulb fennel, thinly sliced, and fronds reserved for garnish
– 2 leeks (white and light green parts), sliced
– 3 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and thinly sliced, plus 2 Tbsp. minced
– 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
– 3⁄4 tsp. saffron
– 1 tsp. orange zest
– 1 1⁄2 cups chicken stock
– 1 1⁄2 cups clam juice
– 1 1⁄2 lb. new red potatoes, halved
– 2 sprigs fresh thyme
– 4 Tbsp. butter, softened
– Juice of half a lemon
– Salt and freshly ground pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, fennel, and leek, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened but not browned. Add the sliced garlic and continue stirring for another minute. Add the tomato paste, saffron, and orange zest, and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring. Pour in the chicken stock and clam juice and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 25 minutes. Strain the mixture, discarding the vegetables, and season the liquid with salt and pepper.
2. While the sauce is simmering, put the potatoes in a mixing bowl with the remaining 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the minced garlic and thyme, season generously with salt and freshly cracked pepper, and stir to coat. Spread the potatoes on a sheet pan and roast in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until tender and golden.
3. Season the fillets with salt and pepper. Butter a baking dish with about 1 Tbsp. softened butter. Set the fillets in the dish, then chop 1 Tbsp. or more of the butter and divide on top of the fish. Add the lemon juice, and place in the oven. (The potatoes may or may not be finished cooking by this time; if they are, remove them and cover with foil to keep warm.)
4. Cook the fillets for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through. Bring the broth to a simmer meanwhile, stirring in the remaining butter.
5. To serve, divide the potatoes in the center of four wide bowls. Arrange the fillets on top, and ladle the liquid into the bowls. Garnish with the fennel fronds, and serve immediately. Serves 4
For pairing wines with bouillabaisse, think pink. Rosé wines offer the ideal balance here. Banish any thoughts of “white zinfandel” and its blushy ilk, however. In the last few years, we’ve seen a surge of complex, dry, even aggressive rosés hit the market—pink wines tough enough for fishing camp. The Donnas Larmes du Paradis Rosé from Italy’s Valle d’Aosta has a brawny character. Ditto for the 2013 Parés Baltà Ros de Pacs from Spain’s Catalonia region, which has deep baritone notes of flavor.