Simple Bouillabaisse Recipe

During our last Test Kitchen at the W Austin's TRACE restaurant, I decided to try my hand at a simplified, milder and less overtly fishy rendition of bouillabaisse. Rather than explore the six varieties of sea creature that traditionally distinguish French bouillabaisse from mere shellfish stew, I stuck with two tried and true light and flavorful beasts: shrimp and mussels.

I've also found that chunks of tender white fish tend to get soggy and gummy swimming in broth, unlike their shellfish counterparts, so for this rendition we pan-seared the fish component (snapper worked perfectly) and plated it on top. Finally, rather than the super-garlicky, heavy-on-the-tomato stew, we made a light vegetable-based broth to highlight the clean flavors of beautiful and abundant Texas seafood. I used the little farm carrots from TRACE's awesomely well-stocked walk-in, but regular carrots cut into batons will definitely do the trick.

The result? An easy-to-make, refreshing seafood dish that won't keep reminding you all night that you ate it.

Simple Bouillabaisse Recipe
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  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 fennel bulb half chopped and half shaved with a mandolin or V-slicer
  • 1/2 small red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves
  • 6 jumbo Gulf shrimp
  • 12 large freshwater mussels
  • 1 large red potato
  • 1 6 to 8-ounce fillet red snapper
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. 
  2. Saute chopped carrots, celery, chopped fennel, onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.
  3. Add tomatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes until tomatoes begin to dissolve. Add tomato paste, stock and parsley, stir well to combine, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. 
  4. Drop in mussels and shrimp, place lid on the saucepan and cook until shrimp is opaque all the way through and mussels have opened — about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove shrimp and mussels, discarding any mussels that haven't opened, and set aside.
  6. Strain mixture through a sieve or chinois, pushing down with a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid, and return to pot. Discard what's left in the strainer.
  7. Add potatoes, shaved fennel and carrot batons, bring to a boil, cover loosely with lid and cook at a vigorous simmer until potatoes are tender — about 10 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, almost smoking.
  9. Sprinkle the snapper pieces with salt on both sides and sear in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes on each side. 
  10. Divide broth with carrots and potatoes between two deep bowls, arrange shrimp and mussels on top, and top with a piece of snapper.
  11. Garnish with fronds from the top of the fennel bulb and serve. 
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