MABEL’S BOUILLABAISSE

ON MY FIRST TRIP TO PARIS IN 1961, MY AUNT MABEL JOINED ME FOR TWO WEEKS.  MABEL HAD LIVED IN PARIS FROM 1922 TO 1928.  SHE HAD HOBNOBBED WITH GERTRUDE STEIN, HEMINGWAY, SCOTT AND ZELDA, MIRO, AND EVERYONE ELSE WHO WAS IN “MIDNIGHT IN PARIS”.  MABEL SHOWED ME HER PARIS.  AMAZINGLY, QUITE A FEW OF THE RESTAURANTS WHICH SHE’D FREQUENTED IN THE 20S AND AFTER THE WAR WERE STILL THERE.  AMONG THEM WAS LA MEDITERRANEE, A FISH RESTAURANT, FOUNDED IN 1942, FAMOUS FOR ITS BOUILLABAISSE.  THE TABLES WERE SET WITH LARGE SOUP BOWLS, BAGUETTE TOASTS, ROUILLE.  THE WAITERS PRESENTED US PLATTERS OF COOKED  FISH — ROUGET, COD, SCALLOPS, SHRIMP, MUSSELS, EEL.  WE POINTED TO OUR SELECTIONS, WHICH WERE CUT UP AND SPOONED INTO OUR BOWLS.  FISH STOCK, SCENTED WITH GARLIC, TOMATOES, SAFFRON, ONIONS, AND FENNEL WAS LADLED INTO OUR BOWLS.  IT WAS A MEAL WHICH CAME BACK TO ME WHEN I DECIDED TO MAKE BOUILLABAISSE FOR A PARTY OF TEN AT OUR FRIEND LIZ’S HOUSE IN MAINE IN AUGUST.  THE PREVIOUS NIGHT, WE’D FEASTED ON LOBSTER.  I KEPT THE SHELLS AND MADE A LOBSTER STOCK.  THE NEXT DAY, I ADDED FENNEL, TOMATOES, GARLIC, ONIONS, AND SAFFRON, AND REDUCED IT.  THE FISH — MAINE SCALLOPS AND GULF OF MAINE SHRIMP, HADDOCK AND MUSSELS, I COOKED SEPARATELY.  THE ROUILLE WAS A DISASTER, SO I SERVED IT ALONG WITH A DANIEL BOULUD’S  AOILI.  IN THE BACKWOODS OF OQUOSSIC, WE WERE BLESSED BY A GIFTED BAKER WHO SUPPLIED THE BAGUETTES.  WE SERVED THE BOUILLABAISSE THE WAY I HAD EATEN IT AT MEDITERRANEE.  I FEARED I’D BOUGHT WAY TOO MUCH FISH.  NOTHING WAS LEFT.  THIS RECIPE MAY SEEM DAUNTING, BUT MUCH OF IT — THE STOCK, THE AOILI — CAN BE MADE THE DAY BEFORE.  SAUTEEING THE FISH, SHRIMP AND SCALLOPS ASSURES THEY ARE NEITHER SOGGY NOR OVERCOOKED.  YOU CAN ELIMINATE THE LOBSTER ENTIRELY AND MAKE YOUR STOCK WITH FISH BONES, BUT, MAN, DID THAT LOBSTER STOCK TASTE GREAT!
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2 thoughts on “MABEL’S BOUILLABAISSE

  1. Dear John
    I could almost smell it! I am sure it’s delicious.
    I adore the story of your Aunt Mabel. She must have been so interesting. The blog is wonderful.
    Thank you Jx

    • Dear John
      I could almost smell it! I am sure it’s delicious.
      I adore the story of your Aunt Mabel. She must have been so interesting. The blog is wonderful.
      Thank you Jx

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