Recession? Eat Bouillabaisse and Be Merry!

Remember before this financial crisis madness started we were all worried about silly things like what color shirt? or what’s for dinner? Those salad days have come and gone my friends… or are they? Step off that ledge and take a look at this Bouillabaisse. You’ll notice i added a symbolic lobster to an otherwise peasant dish, my own personal way of saying screw the recession!

Even if we have to live in cardboard boxes out in the streets there will still be lobster for dinner. Why? Because uneaten lobsters would grow big like elephants and come back to eat you. Eat the bastards before it’s too late! (err..i know.. you might want to double-check my logic on this one.)

Anyway, Wall Street crisis or not i’m busy as hell hence the lack of posting this past few days. I wanted to make a nice Bouillabaisse for a while and i finally found the time today. Let’s not call it a traditional Bouillabaisse because purists would squeak at the sight of mussels and lobster. To be fair, you can ask any Provençal cooks how to make bouillabaisse and you’ll get a different and passionate response each time. Me don’t care as long as it’s damn good. That’s all that counts, right?

Oh, and i almost forgot to tell you. I won something!! I left a comment on a gelato contest held by Elle.. and i won a bunch of Ciao Bella gelato!! Thank you dear! No.. i’m not sharing! :-)

(makes 6 to 8 servings)

  • 2 pounds rock fish, filleted, bones reserved
  • 1 pound John Dory, filleted, bones reserved
  • 2 pounds rouget or red snapper, filleted, bones reserved
  • 1 pound striped bass, filleted, bones reserved
  • 2 pounds grouper, filleted, bones reserved
  • 6 blue crabs, broken into small pieces
  • 16 small squid
  • 1 cup mussels
  • Two 1 1/2 pound lobsters, head separated and crushed
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 strip of orange zest
  • 3 Tablespoons Pastis (licorice-flavored alcohol from south of France)
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 dried red chile pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 5 parsley stems
  • 6 Tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  • 1/2 cup olive oil

6 garlic cloves

  • 1 fresh chile pepper
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 1 cooked potato, peeled
  • Garnish:

    • 8-10 cooked potatoes
    • 1 baguette
    • 10 Tablespoons Gruyère cheese, grated

    To prepare the bouillon, in a large, hot stockpot roast the bones of the rock fish, rouget, striped bass, grouper, crab and the lobster heads in the olive oil. Once the bones are caramelized, add the onion, celery, carrot, fennel and garlic; sweat for 3 minutes.

    Add the tomatoes and cook until soft. Stir in the tomato paste and coat all of the vegetables and bones. Add the pastis, and cook until dry. Add the white wine and reduce by half. Add the peppercorns, chile pepper, bay leaf, thyme, star anise, orange zest, saffron, and parsley stems; add enough water to just cover everything. Cook until the liquid has reduced by a third. Stir frequently so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

    In another large pot run all of the contents of the bouillabaisse through a medium holed food mill (you can also use a stick blender to puree the mixture and pass it through a chinois). Season with salt and pepper.

    Bring the bouillon to a simmer and add each filet of fish individually based on its thickness (thickest filets first). Cut the lobster tail through the shell into large pieces. Add the lobster, squid and mussels to the bouillon. Cook until the mussels open. Serve as is in the pot.

    To prepare the Rouille, in a food processor, combine all the ingredients. Season with salt pepper. Serve on the side with the Gruyère cheese, cooked potatoes and toasted baguette.

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    • Emiline

      This is probably like, no big deal to you, but I would have had to plan this bouillabaisse out for days. It seems like a lot of work!
      It looks delicious. Especially the lobster. Mmmmmmmm.

    • foodhuntress79

      Hey, I had bouillabaise yesterday! I swear! At a cafe here. It has Japanese prawn tempura in it instead of your lobster. I notice that you use star anise because some recipes don’t have it. Your version seems one of the best i’ve seen.

    • Clumbsy Cookie

      This is exactly what I would want to eat if I was living in a cardboard box out in the street! I don’t care about other versions, I’ll take this one, I LOVE all you put into it. I guess it will be even better with a Ciao Bella Ice-cream for dessert after (congratulations). You really should live closer!

    • Colloquial Cook

      Ben dis donc j’ai eu peur, sur la première photo j’ai cru qu’il y avait un bout d’aubergine japonaise dans ta bouillabaisse! Heureusement, après scrutin attentif, il ne s’agit que d’un morceau de pomme de terre. Elle est passée pas loin, la mandale!

    • Manggy

      You’re not sharing?!?! Boo. I won’t share… Well, it looks like you have all the goods there! I’m glad I’m not a purist. Then I can enjoy your bouillabaisse, mussels (yum!), lobster (YUM!) and all without feeling prissy about it!

    • Darius T. Williams

      LOL – YES – such a great tip!


    • Adam

      Well if I have to eat lobster to save the world from them, I will do what I have to do :) Did I just see one pound John Dory? Is that like one pound Zen Man? Haha thought that was a trick my sneaky friend

    • Gloria

      When the mail artrive (Im suscrited to your blog) I think aahh! is my favorite Chef!!! so I come soon to see waht you made!!

      Lovely dish I love lobster, but sorry Chef Zen the Lobster are sooo cost!!so to recession??? but really love Bouillabisse is so good and this look fantastic!!! xGloria

    • Mike of Mike’s Table

      I just had the urge to have bouillabaisse the other day and then I see this beauty of a dish. Authentic or not, it looks awesome

    • Chicopea

      Looks like you have been hanging out with sebastian from The Little mermaid!

      Nice dish Zen. I would almost roll the dice on my lobster allergy for a bite. Congrats on your win, I just had ciao bella today at the mott st store, yummy!

    • One Food Guy

      Traditional or not, I don’t think it matters much; Good food is good food, call it what you want. Your bouillabaisse looks absolutely fantastic; all that fish, all those flavors, nicely done!

    • My Sweet & Saucy

      Definitely my kind of dish…although I would much enjoy it if you cooked it rather than me!

    • glamah16

      Oh Zen, your my hero. I love a good Bouillabaisse and I would expect the lobster. Im no purist. Bring on the shell fish.

    • giz

      That boulliabase makes me forget all about the debates in both the U.S. and Canada. I listened to both and even the Canadian one in French and at the end of the day – nobody said anything and it was all predictable. All that’s left now is to wait for more Saturday night live on Sarah Palin. At least that’s funny.

    • Tenina

      Oh my zen friend, how you sorely need a Thermomix…I will let you know when I am in NY next and bring you one!
      This is a stunning recipe…as usual. You never disappoint!

    • Giff

      Wow that looks great. Just how long did that take you Zen? (give or take a few millenia)

    • peter

      I haven’t had a really good bouillabaisse since I lived in Provence. You have inspired me to make one soon.

    • We Are Never Full

      i’m with you – in this depressing time of economic woe, it’s important to balance your depression and shrinking finances with a meal fit for rich people! I’m down. hell, we were so depressed we booked a city break to montreal next week even though we can’t afford it either! we’ll be dining on beef tartare and foie gras! looks divine.

    • acey

      it looks perfect! sounds great.

      if i could just kidnap you, zenman, i would. haha. and i’d make you a love slave and you’ll have to cook for me forever. muhahaha. JUST KIDDING! :)

      happy weekend!

    • T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types

      This recipe could put a number of people back to work and solve the recession – I’m feeling better already!

    • Rasa Malaysia

      Ooh I love seafood, can I go to your house and have dinner, please?

    • Shreya

      so many ingredients, and such a great recipe! Amazing, I don’t even know how to pronounce the name of the dish, but it definitely is awesome food. would love to have it some day:-) don’t think im capable of gathering all the ingredients and preparing it myself. Congrats on the win, no share, no tear. winners keepers.

    • Nicole

      Looks delish. I certainly haven’t been cooking or eating like there is a recession. Poor or not, I like to eat well.

    • cook eat FRET

      love love this too
      zen, tell us – how DO you manage???

      i gotta make this too. like really. no i mean it. i am totally not bullshitting you

    • [eatingclub] vancouver || js

      Fantabulous! I’m forgetting there’s a world outside this bouillabaisse.

    • msjvd

      Hey… THANK YOU for posting this recipe.

      I used to eat bouillabaise in a little restaurant in Laguna Beach, CA. Loved it there and this is the first recipe that has sounded anything like their soup.

      I made it for Christmas Eve. It was wonderful. And yeah, worth every bit of effort.

      Thank you!