Julia Child’s classic recipe for Provencal fish soup in tomato saffron broth, with roasted red pepper rouille.
Aside from making her bouillabaisse recipe, it’s easy to get caught up in all things Julia Child.
When the movie Julie & Julia first came out years ago, Meryl Streep captured the best of what we love about Julia, from her warbly, exuberant voice to her healthy physical lust for her husband.
Thinking about Julia Child 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 the book are stuck in a bit of a time warp?
Julia Child’s bouillabaisse is a classic recipe for Provencal seafood soup.
Browsing through the book, you’ll find recipes that speak to another time, before ingredients like crème fraîche became a staple in the grocery store. Things like chicken aspic decorated with slivers of jarred pimiento and crepes filled with boiled, canned pineapple.
Based on those kinds of recipes, you can draw a picture 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 home, wearing a bullet bra, Jackie O Chanel suit and smoking a long cigarette, like a character from the television show Mad Men.
Julia’s 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.
But in between the 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, like her version of a traditional bouillabaisse recipe.
Ingredients for making bouillabaisse:
Bouillabaisse is a Provençal fish soup, made in one essential stockpot.
Julia Child stresses the importance of making simple bouillabaisse.
First, the broth is fortified with lots of seafood shells and trimmings (available for a few dollars a pound at your fish counter) flavored with the typical ingredients of Provencal France: Garlic, saffron, olive oil and tomatoes.
Then the broth simmers for about 30 minutes before adding the shellfish and seafood, which cook in a matter of minutes.
This seafood soup is outstanding. With something for everyone at the table (picky children among them), including delicious broth, different kinds of fish and seafood, all you need is a big hunk of bread to soak up every drop in the bowl.
More Julia Child-inspired recipes:
- Parchment Roasted Cod with Fennel, Thyme and Tomatoes
- Herbs de Provence Chicken Pasta Salad with Dijon Dressing
- French Potato Cake with Leeks and Gruyere
And let’s not forget the the zesty, roasted red pepper rouille sauce you can smear on the toasted bread.
Simplicity and authentic taste is what Julia Child’s bouillabaisse recipe is all about. 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)
julia child's bouillabaisse
Yield 6-8 servings
A simple recipe for Julia Child's bouillabaisse, the classic French seafood soup. The delicious soup is full of shellfish, seafood and fragrant tomatoes and can be made in less than an hour.
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup each chopped onion and leek
- 4 cloves smashed garlic
- 2 or 3 large, ripe tomatoes, chopped or 2 cups canned
- 2 1/2 quarts water
- Fresh herb sprigs: thyme, parsley, fennel fronds and basil (in any combination)
- 1/2 teaspoon crumbled saffron
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 3 - 4 pounds fish heads, bones, trimmings, shrimp shells
- 1 pound each: peeled shrimp (use the shells for the stock); wild cod, halibut or other flaky white fish, cut into large chunks; debearded, scrubbed mussels or clams
- Crusty bread, sliced
- 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:
- Heat the oil in a tall pot (I use 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 and shrimp shells. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat so that the broth bubbles slowly without boiling.
- Cook 30 minutes, then strain the broth into a large bowl or another pot and discard the solids.
- 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 (this will just take a few minutes).
- Taste the soup and add more salt and freshly ground pepper if needed.
Make the rouille:
- Puree everything except for the olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil while processing to form a paste.
- Toast the bread and brush with olive oil.
- Serve the soup with bread and rouille.
Inspired by Julia Child's essential cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Volume 1).
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