There is no dispute that the best bouillabaisse is cooked in the city of Marseille , but where does that leave the home cook with no access to fresh seafood from the Mediterranean? The trick is to look for the freshest local fish you can find and not to be afraid of improvising. That's what we've done here (forget serving the dish in two courses). The fish remains firm, the broth clear, the flavor sublime.


For croutons
  • 12 to 16 (1/2-inch-thick) baguette slices
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
For soup
  • 1 (1- to 1 1/4 -lb) live lobster
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb boiling potatoe
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fennel fronds (sometimes called anise)
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 9 cups white fish stock (or store-bought)
  • 3 pounds white fish fillets (such as monkfish, turbot, red snapper, striped bass, porgy, grouper, and/or cod), cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pound cockles or small hard-shelled clams, scrubbed
  • 1/2 pound cultivated mussels, scrubbed and any beards removed
  • 1/2 pound large shrimp in shells
For rouille
  • 2 red chili peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 slice white crusty bread
  • 1 Tblsp rock salt


Make croutons
  1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 250°F.
  2. Arrange bread slices in 1 layer in a shallow baking pan and brush both sides with oil.
  3. Bake until crisp, about 30 minutes.
  4. Rub 1 side of each toast with a cut side of garlic.
Make the rouille
  1. Trim, de-seed and chop finely the peppers.
  2. In a mortar, crush the peppers, garlic, rock salt and olive oil (1 teaspoon) together to obtain a thick paste.
  3. Crumble the bread, moisten it with hot water (or the bubbling broth if you're preparing a fish soup or bouillabaisse), and press it into a tight lump, squeezing out the liquid.
  4. Add the bread lump to the paste and beat, adding olive oil, until you've raised a smooth sauce.
  5. If the sauce tends to separate, add another tight lump of bread and hot broth, and keep beating.
Make soup
  1. Plunge lobster headfirst into a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling water, then cook, covered, 2 minutes from time lobster enters water.
  2. Transfer lobster with tongs to a colander and let stand until cool enough to handle.
  3. Discard hot water in pot.
  4. Put lobster in a shallow baking pan.
  5. Twist off claws with knuckles from body, then crack claws with a mallet or rolling pin and separate claws from knuckles.
  6. Halve body and tail lengthwise through shell with kitchen shears, then cut crosswise through shell into 2-inch pieces.
  7. Reserve lobster juices that accumulate in baking pan.
  8. Cook tomatoes, onion, and garlic in oil in cleaned 6- to 8-quart pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.
  10. Stir potatoes into tomatoes with fennel fronds, bay leaf, saffron, sea salt, and pepper.
  11. Add stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes.
  12. Add thicker pieces of fish and cockles to soup and simmer, covered, 2 minutes. Stir in mussels, shrimp, lobster, including juices, and remaining fish and simmer, covered, until they are just cooked through and mussels open wide, about 5 minutes.
  13. Stir 3 tablespoons broth from soup into rouille until blended.
  14. Arrange 2 croutons in each of 6 to 8 deep soup bowls.
  15. Carefully transfer fish and shellfish from soup to croutons with a slotted spoon, then ladle some broth with vegetables over seafood.
  16. Top each serving with 1 teaspoon rouille and serve remainder on the side.