Few experiences are more magical than sitting seaside at twilight, sipping white wine and savoring the famous fish soup called bouillabaisse.
Sunset FEBRUARY 2011
1. Heat oil in a large, wide pot over medium-high heat. Sauté leek and onion until translucent, 2 minutes. Add garlic, then fennel slices from under fish on platter. Sauté 2 minutes, then add tomatoes, stock, wine, bay leaf, thyme, pepper, and salt.
2. Remove fish from platter; set aside. Lift off fennel stalks and fronds and discard. Scrape marinade into broth. Bring to a boil, covered; then simmer, covered, until fennel slices are meltingly soft, 30 minutes. Meanwhile, bring 1 qt. water to a boil.
3. Bring broth to a rolling boil. Lay in the halibut and add enough boiling water to just cover fish. Cook until just opaque, 5 to 7 minutes; transfer to a platter and cover.
4. Add thinner fish fillets and spot prawns and cook just until opaque, 2 minutes; transfer to platter as done. Add crab and mussels and cook just until mussels open, 5 minutes. Transfer both to platter. Add squid and cook just until opaque, about 1 minute; transfer to platter. Bathe platter with a ladle of broth. Remove bay leaf and thyme.
5. Ladle about 1 cup broth each into big soup bowls (keep broth hot for a second serving, covered). Bring bowls, platter, rouille, and toasts to the table. Put a little of each seafood in every bowl and top with a dollop of rouille. Serves 8 to 10.
Make ahead: Add fish to remaining broth and keep, chilled, up to 5 days.
When choosing your seafood, try to vary the textures and flavors. Some should be firm, others soft; some mild, others briny. Find them at a good seafood shop or your farmers' market.
Alaskan snow crab legs: Very firm, lobsterlike texture; sweet and mild. Usually only available cooked.
California mussels: Briny flavor; soft, melting texture with a bit of chew.
California squid (calamari): Firm but tender; sweet yet meaty. It's neither fish nor shellfish, really, but it gives great texture and flavor to the soup.
Dungeness crab: Flaky; sweet and moist.
Pacific cod (true cod, gray cod): Delicate; mild flavor.
Pacific halibut: Firm, with mild flavor.
Petrale sole: Delicate texture; mild, sweet flavor.
Rockfish (black bass, sea bass, black snapper): Medium-firm; clean sea flavor.
Sablefish (black cod): Silky, medium-firm; rich, buttery flavor.
Spiny lobsters: Succulent and firm. Can use, cooked, instead of crab. Available from fall to spring.
Spot prawns: Incredibly sweet taste and tender-crisp; keep head and tail on for the most flavor. Can be hard to find.
Note: Nutritional analysis is per serving.
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