The Lady's Bouillabaisse
- 1 pound mussels
- 2 pounds firm fresh fish fillets, such as grouper or striped bass
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 3/4 cups chopped onions
- 5 Roma tomatoes, peeled and sliced, or 1 cup canned Italian tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- Pinch saffron
- 1 tablespoon, plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter plus more, for the bread and plating
- 2 1/2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
- 4 crab halves, cut in 1/2
- 1 pound unpeeled shrimp
- 1 loaf French bread
Wash and scrub the mussels in cold water.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a large heavy pot. Add the mussels and cover the pot.* Steam for 6 to 8 minutes or until the mussels open. Discard any mussels that didn't open. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Cut the fish into 1-inch thick slices.
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the garlic, onions, tomatoes, fennel, saffron, salt, and pepper. Add the mussel broth to the pot and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the boiling water and clam juice. Bring to a rolling boil, add the crabs and fish, and continue to boil for 6 to 8 minutes. Add the mussels along with the shrimp, and boil for an additional 5 minutes.
Slice the French bread, butter it, and toast lightly. Serve the bouillabaisse in large individual bowls lined with toasted French bread; pile in the seafood and ladle the broth over it. Top each bowl with 1 tablespoon of butter. Pass the remaining bread at the table.
*Cook's Note: If you like a spicier soup you may add a couple of whole hot peppers to the pot at the start of cooking.