julia child’s bouillabaisse recipe


I’m caught up in Julia Child fever {so much so that I’ve started a new blog – visit Dinner with Julia and follow me as I dive into Julia’s recipes}; the movie Julie & Julia is opening this weekend and I’m not ashamed to say that I will be standing in line for a ticket. I’ve read that Meryl Streep has captured the best of what we love about Julia, from her warbly, exuberant voice to her healthy physical lust for her husband.

Thinking about my Julia Child moment had me plucking my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking off the shelf for a little sit-down time. I wanted to make a recipe from the book, but I had trouble conjuring that spark of hunger that usually makes me rush to the kitchen to cook.

Is it because some of the recipes in Mastering are stuck in a bit of a time warp?

Browsing through the book, I see recipes that speak to another time, a time before crème fraîche became a staple in the grocery store and we knew not to cook a piece of pork to within an inch of its life: cold chicken aspic decorated with slivers of canned pimiento, veal Prince Orloff and crepes filled with boiled, canned pineapple.  In my mind I draw a caricature of the 1960’s American housewife that Julia was writing for – a perfectly coiffed woman about to throw a dinner party in her sprawling suburban ranch house, wearing a bullet bra, Jackie O skirt suit and smoking a long cigarette, like a character from the television show Mad Men.

But in between the thick, cream-colored pages of Julia’s tome are a multitude of other classic recipes and techniques that will never go out of style or fail to please – her precise directions for making homemade mayonnaise, perfect rolled omelets and puffy souffles are what make Mastering the Art of French Cooking stand alone on the cookbook shelf.

I chose to make the bouillabaisse (page 52) the other day, along with a rouille sauce to smear on crusty toasted bread.

Bouillabaisse is a Provençal fish soup, and Julia stresses the importance of keeping it simple; the broth is fortified with lots of seafood shells and trimmings (available for less than a dollar a pound at your fish counter) and flavored with the typical flavors of the region: garlic, saffron, olive oil and tomatoes.

The soup was outstanding and I like how it had something for everyone at my table (picky children among them)  – delicious broth, different kinds of fish and seafood, and a big hunk of bread to soak up every drop in the bowl.

The simplicity and authentic taste of this recipe is what Julia Child is all about to me. It also defines how I love to cook.

Julia says it best:

This is the kind of food I had fallen in love with: not trendy, souped-up fantasies, just something very good to eat….the ingredients have been carefully selected and beautifully and knowingly prepared. Or, in the words of the famous gastronome Curnonsky, “Food that tastes of what it is”. (from My Life in France)

Here’s to you, Julia!

Julia Child’s Bouillabaisse Recipe

Serving Size: Serves a table of 6

Serve the bouillabaisse with toasted bread and rouille on the side.


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup each chopped onion and leek
  • 4 cloves mashed garlic
  • 2 or 3 large, ripe tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • Fresh herb sprigs: thyme, parsley, fennel fronds and basil (in any combination)
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 3 - 4 pounds fish heads, bones, trimmings, shrimp shells
  • 1 1/2 pounds each peeled shrimp (use the shells for the stock); wild cod, halibut and/or sole cut into chunks, and debearded, scrubbed mussels or clams
  • Toasted rustic bread
  • For the Rouille:
  • 1 roasted and peeled red bell pepper
  • 1 roasted hot red chile pepper or ground cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small peeled garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs or finely chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • Fine sea salt, about 1/2 teaspoon or to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil


    For the soup:
  1. Heat the oil in a tall pot (I used an 8 quart stockpot) over medium heat; add the onion and leek and cook gently until softened. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute until fragrant, then add the tomatoes, water, herbs, saffron, salt and fish bones. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat so that the broth bubbles slowly without boiling.
  2. Cook 30 minutes, then strain the broth into a large bowl or another pot and discard the solids.
  3. Pour the broth back into the stockpot and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink, a minute or two. Add the rest of the fish and shellfish, cover and simmer until the mussels or clams open. Taste the soup and add more salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.
  4. For the Rouille:
  5. Puree everything except for the olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while processing to form a paste.

Protein Rush: Provencal Lentils with Spinach

This doesn’t taste like diet food to me…

I saw my friend L at our weight training class at the Y the other day and noticed how svelte she looked. When I asked her about it she told me she’s been on the South Beach diet for a few months now, and not only is she losing weight and feeling fantastic, but her eating habits have changed; like she no longer craves bowls of pasta for dinner and bagels for breakfast. Instead she and her husband (who’s shed more than 20 pounds so far) are eating more lean meats and salads.

It made me think about how my own food preferences have evolved of late. While there is no denying that I will happily shovel a bowl-full of spaghetti into my pie hole, more often than not these days it’ll be the whole wheat kind. My ten-pound bag of white jasmine rice sits aging in the back of the pantry closet because now I make brown rice instead.

I’d never been a dieter; until I had kids I was one of those people with a “fast” metabolism — I could easily eat my husband under the table and never gain a pound. And don’t even talk to me about low or no carb — I become a mean, unhappy person when deprived of a large hunk of crusty bread or some kind of starchy sidekick with meals. But a few years ago I examined a photo of myself looking bloated, pudgy and so unlike the me I used to be that I wondered “Who is that?”

I wanted to lose weight without feeling restricted by a diet. Giving up whole categories of food just wouldn’t work for me — I like eating a little bit of everything. I also believe that diets work in the long run because they force you to pay closer attention to what you put into your mouth — something that our eat-and-run culture seems to have forgotten how to do.

I started getting on the treadmill every day, slowly working my way from 30 minutes of walking to 45 minutes of running. And although I didn’t conform to any strict plan, I became aware of what foods I was eating and made what at first seemed like inconsequential changes in my habits; changes that added up to a whole lot of extra calories.

For instance, giving up coffee (since for me it doesn’t seem to go down without 4 ounces of half and half) and exchanging my morning glass of orange juice for water. No second helpings at dinner time, and sometimes a bowl of low-fat frozen yogurt ( I like Haagen-Dazs) for dessert if I was still feeling hungry. For snacking, I’d grab a handful of almonds or plain, stove-topped popcorn instead of cookies and chips. And I became a whole-grain fiend — T and the kids would erupt in a chorus of groans whenever I pulled out the whole-wheat burger buns.

The positive result was that a little more than 6 months later, I found myself free of those pesky 35 pounds of “baby weight”.

So that was a few years ago, and the changes became habits that stuck with me; slowly my kids have come around to eat that icky brown wheat bread without complaint and (usually) won’t break down in tears if I make lentils for dinner. My daughter A completely surprised me the other night by helping herself to seconds of this recipe, which I served with brown rice and some leftover roasted chicken.

Now L, my sister-in-law, who lost more than 60 pounds last year, has developed a craving for lots more grains in her cooking. So what could be bad about that? I plan to do more exploring in the name of “good for you” eating, as long as it stays real and delicious.

Provencal Lentils with Spinach

Makes 4 servings
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup small dark green Le Puy lentils (I buy them in bulk at Whole Foods and Dierberg’s)
1 bay leaf
2 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 box frozen spinach, thawed as directed on package
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and salt; cook until softened, stirring occasionally Add the lentils and bay leaf to the pan, stirring until lentils are coated with oil.

Pour in the broth and bring to a boil; lower heat to a simmer and cook, covered, until liquid is nearly absorbed, about 30 minutes. Stir in the garlic and spinach, breaking the spinach up with a spoon; cover and continue cooking 5 – 10 more minutes.

Remove from the heat; add thyme, mustard, vinegar and pepper to taste. Taste and add more salt if needed; sprinkle with pine nuts. Find the bay leaf and remove it before serving.
Serve with brown basmati or jasmine rice.

Save This Page on Del.icio.us

Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food