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Simple Fish Bouillabaisse

Here is an easy version of bouillabaisse, the famed fish soup of Marseilles, crowned with fresh herbs, orange zest and crunchy crostini. For an even more sublime flavor, substitute 2 Tbs. Pernod or other anise-flavored liqueur for 2 Tbs. of the white wine.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 10 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbs. fennel seeds
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes, with juices
  • 5 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • 2 lb. fresh cod or monkfish fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks

For the crostini:

  • Baguette slices, each about 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, halved lengthwise
  •  
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh chervil (optional)

Directions:

In a large, heavy fry pan over low heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, fennel seeds and bay leaves and cook gently, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant and tender, about 10 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Stir in the tomato paste and salt and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Pour in the wine and stir to combine. Transfer the contents of the pan to a slow cooker.

Cut off the stem and feathery tops and any bruised outer stalks from the fennel bulb; coarsely chop the feathery tops to yield 2 Tbs. and set aside. Cut the bulb lengthwise into wedges and trim away the core, leaving a little core intact to hold each wedge together. Add the fennel wedges, tomatoes and stock to the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low according to the manufacturer’s instructions for 3 hours. Add the fish, re-cover and cook until the fish is firm but tender, about 30 minutes more.

Meanwhile, make the crostini: Preheat an oven to 350°F. Arrange the baguette slices on a rimmed baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Bake until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. While the baguette slices are still warm, carefully rub each slice on one side with a cut side of the garlic clove.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fish and fennel wedges to a large plate. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Puree the soup with an immersion blender. (Alternatively, for a chunkier soup, transfer half of the mixture to a blender and process until smooth, then return the puree to the slow cooker and stir to combine.)

Ladle the tomato broth into warm shallow bowls, and divide the fish and fennel wedges evenly among the bowls. Garnish each serving with a little orange zest, the reserved chopped fennel tops and the chervil. Serve immediately with the crostini alongside. Serves 4 to 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2010).