Thursday, March 4, 2010

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?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Butternut Squash and Duxelles, a vegetarian main course or a great new side dish to try.

I remember when my Mother got her first Cuisinart in the 70s.  They were about the same price they are now but in '70s dollars, they weren’t cheap.  But my Mother was notorious for buying any labor-saving device that would get her out of the kitchen as quickly as possible.  So it wasn’t a surprise that she  latched onto the Cuisinart in the first wave of buyers.  I remembered asking her what she could make with it.  “Peanut Butter” she replied, “and Duxelles”.  Why you would spend over $200.00 for something you could get in a jar for .79 cents was a little beyond me.  And I can positively guarantee that no dish involving Duxelles, that paste of finely chopped mushrooms and shallots so dear to classic French cuisine, ever came out of my mother’s kitchen.  But in trying to find some vegetarian dishes to share with you, I came across a wonderful casserole of Butternut Squash, and yes, Duxelles.