A favorite holiday of seafood-lovers and Francophiles everywhere is coming up on Dec. 14: National Bouillabaisse Day.
Born in the French port city of Marseille, bouillabaisse is a boiled fish soup (bouill meaning “to boil,” and baisse meaning “to reduce”) and is said to have originated as a poor fisherman’s stew.
The fisherman would boil the fish — often the bony fish and scraps they couldn’t sell at market — in aromatics, Provençal herbs, wine, and stock. Interestingly, the dish is now known for its elegance and was made famous in fine dining establishments wherein the broth, made thick with the gelatin inside the fish bones, was brought to the table first with the fish served separately on a platter accompanied by a baguette and a side of rouille, a thick, garlicky sauce made with breadcrumbs, saffron, olive oil, and chiles.
Now, it is pretentiously said that a true bouillabaisse can only be created in and around Marseille to achieve the right flavors with the proper ingredients (i.e. fish from the Mediterranean Sea and Provençal-grown herbs). For those of us not lucky enough to be in the Marseille vicinity, here’s a collection of some of our favorite fish soups, including good ol’ American clam chowder, Swedish fisksoppa, and Creole-inspired crawfish stew.
Check it out and celebrate the delicious holiday with a warm bowl of fish soup — whichever variety you are so inclined to make and eat!