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Creamy Fish Soup (La Bourride)

Creamy Fish Soup (La Bourride)
In southeastern Provençal ports, fishing villages and coastal resort towns¿from Saint-Raphaël to Saint-Tropez to Nice¿this fish soup is served in nearly every restaurant and, for grand occasions, at home as well. Bourride is made unique by the addition of aioli, which is whisked into the soup in large quantity to give it an essentially creamy yellow look that is very different from the region¿s other great fish soup, bouillabaisse. In Provence, monkfish is the most common addition, but sea bass is also often used, as are whiting and John Dory.

Ingredients:

For the stock:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2 leeks, white portion only, sliced
  • 2 Swiss chard leaves, stalks removed and
     leaves coarsely sliced (optional)
  • 1 fresh thyme sprig
  • 2 orange zest strips, 2 1/2 inches long
     and 1/2 inch wide
  • 1 3/4 cups dry white wine
  • 6 to 8 cups water or light fish stock

  • 3 lb. white-fleshed fish, in fillets or thick-cut
     medallions
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 12 slices day-old baguette or dense sourdough
      bread
  • Aioli (see related recipe at left), made with
     3 egg yolks, 6 garlic cloves and 1 to
     1 1/3 cups olive oil
  • 3 egg yolks

Directions:

To make the stock, in a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrots and leeks and sauté until softened and shiny with oil, about 1 minute. Add the Swiss chard, thyme and orange zest, stir briefly, and then pour in the wine and water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer slowly, uncovered, for 20 minutes to infuse the liquid with flavor.

Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve and return it to the pan. Bring to a boil and boil, uncovered, until reduced by one-third. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, about 15 minutes, before continuing.

If using fillets, cut them into large chunks about 4 inches long. Place the fish in the cooled stock. Season lightly with salt and pepper, place over high heat and bring to just under a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the fish is opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, arrange the bread slices in the bottom of 6 individual soup bowls, placing 2 slices in each bowl. When the fish is cooked, using a slotted spoon or wide metal spatula, carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter and keep warm.

If the soup tastes bland, boil it down to concentrate the flavor. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper. Moisten the bread with a little of the soup. Reserve about half of the aioli to serve separately in a bowl. Whisk the egg yolks into the remaining aioli. Ladle about 3/4 cup of the hot soup into this mixture, whisk to blend well and then return it to the soup, again whisking well. Whisking continuously, reheat the soup until the egg yolks bind and thicken the soup, being very careful not to allow the soup to boil or the egg yolks may curdle. If properly done, the soup will lightly coat the back of a spoon in the manner of a custard.

Ladle the soup over the bread in the soup bowls. Serve the fish and the reserved aioli separately. Diners alternately spoon fish and aioli into their bowls.
Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Provence, by Diane Holuigue (Time-Life Books, 2002).