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?