Freezer Friendly Bouillabaisse
Seafood from the freezer? Not exactly. There are few instances where seafood from the freezer will live up to my personal culinary standards. But in the case of the classic French seafood stew, Bouillabaisse, you can make the base of the stew — a Bouillabaisse base if you will, and freeze. When you are ready to eat, defrost the frozen soup base in a saucepan, add fresh seafood, and dinner is on the table in minutes. And not just any dinner. Add a salad and crusty baguette and you have an impressive, company worthy, feast.
Makes 11 Cups Base (not counting seafood), 10-11 Servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
2 leeks*, white part only
2 fennel bulbs*, white bulb part only
3 medium celery stalks
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes and their juices
peel of 1 orange
1 1/2 teaspoons herbes de Provence*
1/2 teaspoon saffron
6 cups fish stock (follow this link for recipe)
Per Portion at serving time (in other words, do not freeze):
3-4 littleneck clams in shells
3-4 mussels in shell
3-4 shrimp, heads off, shells on
1/4 pound firm mild fish such as cod, sea bass, snapper or monkfish
Heat a stock pot over medium high heat. Add olive oil and butter. Saute leeks and fennel until softened, about 3 minutes. Add celery and saute for another 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute for a minute. Add white wine and tomato paste. Crush the whole tomatoes between your fingers and add to the pot along with their juices. Add orange peel (in large pieces to make it easy to fish – pun intended — out later). Stir in herbes de Provence, crumble saffron into the pot, and stir in the fish stock. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 25 minutes. If you want to eat right away, continue with the after thawing instructions below.
Cool completely and package in portions that make sense for your needs, in rigid freezer containers or in zip top plastic storage bags. When ready to eat thaw soup base in the refrigerator or place frozen soup base in a large saucepan and thaw over medium high heat. Bring mixture to a boil and add fresh seafood. Simmer until seafood is cooked, about 7 to 10 minutes depending on the combination you are using. Discard any unopened shellfish and spoon into serving bowls. Serve with crusty bread.
* Herbes de Provence is a blend of dried herbes typically containing thyme, basil, fennel, savory, and often lavender, and sometimes other herbs.
* Leeks are in season year round. A member of the garlic and onion family, leeks are a versatile cooking ingredient. When buying fresh leeks, look for firm white stalks and stiff, bright green leaves. When you pick up a leek, it should be firm, not limp. Usually, you will only use the white and/or the very pale green part of a leek (see photo). Care must be taken to wash leeks thoroughly as sand often gets caught between their layers.
* Fennel is a fragrant vegetable with a mild licorice flavor. The edible bulb and stalks can be used like celery and the seeds for seasoning. Fennel often grows wild in fields (the licorice aroma in the air will tell you you’re near wild fennel). When buying fresh fennel look for firm, undamaged bulbs. To prepare fresh fennel for cooking, cut off the tops green stalks (save the leaves to use for seasoning at a later time) peel away the tough outer leaves until the almost white heart is exposed. Cut the bulb in half and remove the core. Slice the halves according to your needs, either lengthwise or widthwise. The slices can be as thin or thick as you like, but this entire bulb area can be used. Fennel seeds also have an licorice taste and can often be used interchangeably with dried fennel in recipes. Find dried fennel seeds in the spice section of your favorite grocery store.