An array of fish & seafood are used
I’m heading in a few days to a fishing village located on the Mediterranean in France, and I'm already already dreaming of Bouillabaisse. This classical French fish stew is synonymous with dining on the French Riviera. There’s hardly a restaurant on the water in Marseille or St Tropez that doesn’t offer this complex dish. Those who don’t have it are typically simple eating places that can’t afford the costly seafood, fish and saffron---not to mention the long, slow cooking process to make the Mediterranean’s most flavor-filled fish dish.
Many think that Bouillabaisse originated in Marseille but research shows otherwise. This quintessential French fish chowder actually has its roots in the Greek civilization. It was Greeks living on the western coast of Turkey who founded Marseille in 600 BC. These ancient Greek sailors brought with them a recipe for a fish soup that is similar to France’s Bouillabaisse.
The fish stew of the original Greek settlers became very popular in the early days of Marseille. As Marseille was growing into a powerful port city, the fishing industry became its biggest economy. The fish that the fishermen couldn’t sell was brought home for wives to add to the family’s fish soup. Most of the fish that didn’t sell were those with bones so Bouillabaisse morphed into a rich stew because of the flavors added by these bones, fish heads, and other unsightly fish parts that could not be sold.
Another change in the dish occurred when the tomato was brought back from the Americas in the 16th century. They were soon added to the broth for flavor, color and acidity. In the 19th century Marseille had become very prosperous. Bouillabaisse, once a poor fisherman’s dish, was reinvented with the addition of pricey saffron, and began appearing in upscale restaurants.
I will be preparing Julia Child's version soon at a “Week in Provence with Julia Child.” To get in the mood I'm watching Julia's French Chef TV show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuiTwik0vvU