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Booya! Bouillabaisse

By Cheryl Forberg, RD
Image of Bouillabaisse
I tend to share recipes that are veggie-centric since most Americans simply aren’t eating enough of them. And while today’s recipe isn’t focused on vegetables per se, there are still plenty of them.

Bouillabaisse, a French seafood stew that originated in Marseille, is named for its basic cooking techniques. Bouiller means to boil and abaisser means to lower the heat, or simmer. I love to prepare this dish when I am entertaining because all the heavy lifting can be done the day before. The finishing touch, adding the seafood, takes only minutes, and can be done when everyone’s already seated at the table. In fact, that’s the way it’s supposed to be done.

Bouillabaisse has been around for a long time. It originated as a quick, easy and inexpensive dinner prepared by fishermen in Marseille. After they sold their daily catch, they used the leftover seafood that they couldn’t sell, in a stew made with water, garlic and fennel. Over time, the preparation become more elaborate, and more expensive items, such as saffron, Pernod (an anise flavored liqueur) and more expensive seafood offerings have been added.

The classic French version features several local fish, such as rascasse, which aren’t easily found in most parts of this country. Dependent on your taste (and your budget) you can add whatever you favor: lobster, shrimp, scallops, calamari, mussels, clams, halibut and so forth.

Now that we’ve moved to the country, and fresh seafood is hours away, I developed this recipe using frozen seafood from Trader Joe’s. I always try to buy wild seafood as opposed to farmed (unless it’s farmed in Norway), and this recipe turned out beautifully using frozen cod and a frozen Seafood Blend from TJ’s, which included shrimp, calamari and scallops.

In terms of seafood or fish stock, some grocery stores carry quart size boxes in the soup aisle. I splurged and bought a quart size (actually 28 ounces) frozen seafood stock at Whole Foods (Stock Options Gourmet Fish Stock for $7.99) and it was well worth it. Next to the saffron, it was the most expensive part of the recipe.

Add a salad and a crusty loaf of bread and you’ll have a fabulous dinner party – bon appetit!

This is a great make ahead dish for entertaining. Serves Six.


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced fennel
2 cups diced onion
2 cup diced yellow bell pepper
1 teaspoon saffron threads
½ teaspoon red chile flakes or ground pepper d’espelette
3 tablespoons minced anchovies
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 cups white wine
2 tablespoons Pernod
1-quart fish or seafood stock
2 15.5-ounce cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste (I prefer to use smoked salt)
3 – 4 pounds of raw (very fresh or fresh frozen and thawed in the refrigerator) seafood cut in 1-inch pieces (halibut, cod, calamari, scallops, peeled and deveined shrimp)
½ cup chopped Italian parsley


Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven or Le Creuset pot.
Image of pot
Add the fennel, onion, Bell pepper and saffron and simmer for 10 minutes until vegetables are tender.
Image of simmer
Add the white wine and simmer for about 5 minutes or until most of the wine has evaporated.
Image of cooking soup
Add the garlic, anchovies and Pernod and simmer for one minute. Add the seafood stock and tomatoes. and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
(At this point, you can allow the stew to cool and refrigerate up to 24 hours until ready to serve.)
Image of Soup
Stir in the seafood and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for one minute. Remove from heat. Check seasoning for salt and pepper and stir in the parsley.

Gently ladle into large shallow bowls and serve with fresh bread or garlic bread.

Nutritional Analysis for one large serving:

Calories 400
Fat 7 g
Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 305 mg
Sodium 520 mg
Carb 26 g
Fiber 5 g
Protein 38g
Vitamin A 60% RDA
Vitamin C 180% RDA
Calcium 15% RDA
Iron 15% RDA
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