Chicken Bouillabaisse

by Chef Suni McMath of Woodruff , SC

 

In my travels as a Brat (both military and otherwise according to my parents), I often thought my love of bouillabaisse with garlic rouille stemmed from Mediterranean cuisine only to learn later that it was a dish often served by my great-grandmother from the Marseilles region of France. When I fi nally left home and had free license to experiment in my own kitchen (mostly to assume the cost of my disasters), I began trying to recreate the once familiar fl avor. It wasn’t until I used the traditional Provencal combination of leeks, onions, tomatoes, etc, that it finally struck a chord of nostalgia.

My children, however, were horrified at the requisite seafood staring back at them from the savory bowl. Having burned the image of that “proud platter” forever in their minds, I did what any clever mother would do: made it with chicken and changed the presentation. Soon it was a regular request (being addictive in flavor and so good for you) and I could finally cherish those childhood memories from so long ago of a great-grandmother gone too soon.

 

 

Here is an adaptation of that recipe for the home cook:

INGREDIENTS:

2 Whole chickens, cut up, washed and salted

2 bunches of fresh leeks, trimmed, sliced 1/2” (including the “tender” tops) and washed thoroughly

4 large yellow onions sliced about 1/2” thick

5 lbs fresh tomatoes, stemmed and chopped

1 large can tomato juice

2 Tbsp toasted fennel seeds

1 large orange (separate peel and juice)

2 bay leaves

2 cups dry vermouth

1 whole garlic head peeled and cloves crushed

1 Tbsp saffron threads

 

In a large dutch oven, brown salted chicken pieces in olive oil a few at a time until lightly crisped. Set aside.

To pan, add leeks and onions, cover and gently sweat on low heat for about 20 minutes until tender and rendered.

Add remaining ingredients including orange peel and its juice.

Adjust salt and other seasonings to taste.

Add chicken, cover and simmer gently until chicken easily pulls from bone – approximately one hour. You may want to remove the bones at this point, but it is not necessary. Adjust to taste as needed.

 

EASY ROUILLE:

1 large can roasted red pepper

1 whole garlic, cloves peeled

1 Tbsp oregano

1 cup bread crumbs (for thickening)

2 cups mayonnaise

salt

Puree first four ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth, add bread crumbs and mayonnaise and blend thoroughly. Allow to bloom for at least 2 hours and then add salt to taste. Adjust seasonings accordingly…more mayo to soften the taste, more garlic to heat it up, etc.

 

To Serve: Over steamed white rice, add a dollop of rouille and surround with bouillabaisse (with plenty of broth), plus crispy bread and butter on the side.

 

Chef Suni shared this recipe with us in 2010.

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