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Bouillabaisse of New Orleans June 24, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Seafood, Wolfe recipe.

While Nero Wolfe was at heart a lover of French classical cooking, he also became a great proponent of food cooked in his adopted homeland of America. Indeed, he was always grateful to the United States for providing him with a home and allowing him to live how he wanted, concentrating on orchids and culinary delights. While Nero Wolfe rarely left his house, he still managed to discover various uniquely American culinary treats, which he both replicated himself and highlighted to foreign chefs who were visiting.

One of the dishes Wolfe seems very fond of is what he calls Bouillabaisse of New Orleans. In Too Many Cooks, he states that the Marseilles version is “mere belly fodder” compared to the wonders of the New Orleans version. And with a description like that, naturally I had to try it.

I started by chopping up some green pepper, garlic and scallions. I sauteed these in some olive oil until they were soft.

Once they were soft, I added thyme, white wine and some beef broth and let the whole thing boil. I reduced the heat, and while it was simmering, I chopped some snapper into pieces and rolled them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper. I also had some prawns which I also rolled in the flour. The recipe called for small lake shrimp but since I didn’t have any of those, I used the prawns. It was only when I was halfway through the recipe I thought of using yabbies…oh well. Next time.

I dropped the floured pieces of fish into the soup, and once more let it boil before reducing the temperature and letting it cook the seafood gently. While the soup was simmering, I chopped up a breadstick and fried some pieces of it in butter.

At this point, I was ready to just eat the fried bread – it smelled so good and the crust had gone nice and toasty! But I refrained, and continued with the soup. At this point, it was almost done, with the fish and prawns cooked through. As a final step, I stirred through some saffron and added a bit more pepper.

Now it was ready to serve. I placed the slices of bread in a bowl, and spooned the bouillabaisse over the top. I garnished with some chives and it was ready to serve.

While I can’t make any comments about whether it’s better than the Marseille version, I did enjoy this bouillabaisse very much. The seafood had permeated throughout the broth and the saffron also came through. The broth had also thickened quite a lot due to the flour I’d added when I put the fish in; this was a clever way of thickening the broth without needing to make a roux or similar.

While the overall effect was very nice, my favourite part was definitely the soup-soaked pieces of bread. The crusts stayed crunchy while the inside of the bread had been completely softened by the soup.

Since Nero Wolfe rarely travelled to places where this would have been served, I hope he was able to reproduce this recipe in the comfort of his own home – something that I will definitely be doing over the winter – and find appropriate satisfaction in the Bouillabaisse of New Orleans.


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