Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday aka Mardi Gras, Carnival and Pancake Tuesday. It’s a BIG party day down in the Big Easy and you bet everyone there is going to be eating and drinking like kings. Though I’ve never been to New Orleans I can only imagine what typical Mardi Gras food consists of. I imagine it contains lots of seafood from the Gulf with French influences such as gumbo, bouillabaisse, bisque, crawfish, you get the picture. (My stomach is growling as we speak.) This is my simplified version of a bouillabaisse. Typically, and according to tradition, there should be at least five different kinds of fish (not including shellfish) in a proper bouillabaisse. That can get pretty pricey so I thought I’d use some key seafood ingredients saving money yet without compromising flavour (which I may have used for a six-pack). This version is light, fresh and brothy just the way I roll.
20 mussels – rinsed
20 Manila clams – rinsed
1/2 lb large locally caught wild shrimp – P&D’d (peeled & de-veined)
1 lb white fish (Pacific cod, Tilapia, Pacific halibut) – 1″ cubes
3 cups leeks (whites only) thinly sliced, washed
1 red bell pepper – small dice
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 x 15 oz can diced tomatoes – drained
1 cup white wine (whatever’s in your glass will work) OR an 8 fluid oz bottle of clam juice*
3 cups water
about a handful of fresh basil – chiffonade
2 sprigs fresh thyme (for steaming mussels & clams)
2 tbsp olive oil
*TIP: Bottled clam juice is easily found in the States though it might be hard enough to find across the pond. Steaming the shellfish in the white wine is a great alternative for making your own clam juice.
Preheat large soup pot on medium heat for 1 minute. Add olive oil along with leeks, red pepper and chili flakes. Saute, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Cover with lid while they’re sauteing. This will keep in the moisture and help prevent them from going brown. You don’t want any colour on the leeks, just softened.
As leeks and pepper are cooking, preheat a large saute pan on high heat for 1 minute. Very carefully add mussels and clams to pan along with the wine and thyme or bottled clam juice and thyme. (Be careful of splashing the liquid.) Cover with lid and cook until all the shells are open. Give the pan a shake after 30 seconds or so to move them around. Cook for 2 minutes approx or until all the shells have opened.
NOTE: If there are any unopened or cracked shells when the majority are cooked, discard them.
Holding a colander over the soup pot drain the shellfish into the colander. This steaming liquid will be the base of your soup and it’s delicious. Add the water, bay leaves and chopped tomatoes to the soup pot and bring to a boil.
Next remove all the mussels & clams from their shells. Set the meat aside and throw away the shells or even better you could use them with your saved veg and the shrimp shells to make a seafood stock.
Add the white fish and shrimp to the soup and stir. (They’ll cook in the broth.) Once soup comes to a boil reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes on medium low heat.
Just before serving add all mussels, clams and fresh basil. Stir and taste. Season with S&P.
All recipes are made with the finest quality farmers market whole foods, natural and non-processed ingredients as much as possible.