Adventures with Bouillabaisse, or, what would Julia Child do?

At the end of the summer, Daniel and Max and I hosted a small house-warming gathering at which we served two dishes inspired by two culinary goddesses who’ve both had tremendous influence on our Ithacan kitchen: Mei, my sister and primary proprietress of this lovely online space, and Julia Child. We imagine that their lovechild would be miraculously tall, butter- and bacon-loving to a fault, and look something like this:

Hmm… maybe we’ll stick to hybrid meals and leave offspring to the professionals. Bouillabaisse and scallion pancakes ahead.

Daniel and I had been contemplating bouillabaisse for a while, ever since watching Tivo’d episodes of “The French Chef” with Julia Child (thanks, Mom!). For those of you who have yet to watch Julia crow about the wonders of this delicious stew, bouillabaisse is a traditional French/Mediterranean seafood dish flavored with tomatoes, leeks, onions, and saffron and served with crisp french bread rounds and stewed potatoes.

We started the process by heading over to Daniel’s beautiful family pond and catching a few large-mouth bass and some finger-length blue-gills.

The bass are used to being fed – they’ll actually follow you as you walk around the pond and wait for worms to fall in. So, needless to say, they’re pretty easy to catch. We cut and scaled them on-site.

We also went to Wegmans and picked up fish heads for the stock, and some shellfish. After a few hours of very sweaty cooking and a good portion of sangria for each of us, we had a pot of something that was starting to look like bouillabaisse.

Once the stew was done, we fished out (hah!) all the good bits and then strained the liquid. Check it.

We then had our guests construct their portions according to their liking – this stew is ideal for family style eating. As Julia notes on “The French Chef,” the beauty of bouillabaisse is that it can be as simple or as complex as you like it (read: as affordable as you need it to be, perhaps because you are a college student). The fish heads, which you can procure by asking at your grocer’s fishmonger counter, are the least expensive but perhaps most important part of the stew. The more expensive stuff like shellfish and nice fillets are almost sort of secondary.

Around the same time I moved into my apartment, Mei posted her quick and dirty guide to delicious scallion pancakes and a Li-family classic dipping sauce. We were so pleased (it’s a snake! it’s a snail!) that we made them a few times before deciding to take them public (i.e. feed them to our other friends). (A quick note in the form of yet another parenthetical: the dipping sauce is even crazier if you pan fry it before serving.)

Some action shots: Daniel with some pancakes ready to go!

Max doing some pancake flipping.

And one of our final products: a little misshapen, but delicious, I swear.


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5 thoughts on “Adventures with Bouillabaisse, or, what would Julia Child do?

  1. mei says:

    ummmmm bouillabaisse = AWESOME.

    me as julia child – ABSOLUTELY F*CKING TERRIFYING.

    thank god i am not a six foot short haired meryl streep lookalike giant.


    smoochies from your big sis.

  2. mei says:

    also, me as julia child = ABSOLUTELY F*CKING HILARIOUS. nice photoshop skillz. that was max, wasn’t it.

  3. irene says:

    It was indeed. As for the picture, we were trying to decide between creepy and hilarious, and then realized that there was really no need to choose.

  4. mei says:

    also creepy and hilarious – the face of the fish in the bouillabaisse. it looks like it is sticking out its tongue at you…

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mei Li, Mei Li. Mei Li said: new blog posts from the littler sister: adventures in bouillabaisse and espresso chocolate torte! […]

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