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Bouillabaisse with Garlic Aioli and Croutons

           
 When I want to cook something as well known as this dish, I love to haul out the cookbooks that contain the recipe and read all of them before I do anything else.  Almost inevitably, when it is a signature dish such as Bouillabaisse, you’ll find as many recipes as you have cookbooks.  That was the case here.  Everyone from Patricia Wells to Anthony Bourdain had a different opinion on what fish to use.  
But leave it to Julia Child, in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, to remind us that Bouillabaisse is, at its heart, just a simple Provencale fish stew. It was, according to Larousse Gastronomique, first cooked on the beaches near Marseilles over a wood fire. Its cooks were fishermen who added the least marketable of their catch to an aromatic cooking broth and served it over a piece of bread. Interestingly, the word “Bouillabaisse” refers to the method of cooking rather than an actual recipe. “Bouiller” (to boil) is combined with “Abaisser” to reduce.  And since the classic Mediterranean fishes associated with the dish—rascasse, congre, and rouget—don’t swim off Long Island, where I was cooking, my Bouillabaisse was never going to authentically Marseillais. And whose recipe did I end up with?
Balthazar is Brian McNally’s extraordinarily accurate interpretation of a French brasserie.  Opened in 1997, it’s now a SoHo standby.   From it’s antique mirrored menu walls to its plateauxof seafood, it transports you to France from the moment you walk in the door.  But the reason I chose its recipe for Bouillabaisse was simple:  It featured 3 fish and 2 shellfish that were readily available at our local fish market.  Of course, I did learn from my recipe research and added orange zest from Anthony Bourdain’s version to Balthazar’s. 
Despite the length of the ingredient list and the suggestion that you make the broth one day and wait to cook the fish in it until the next, this is not a hard dish to pull off.  And it is an impressive and very pleasing addition to the dinner table.  Here is the recipe:
 


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