Saffron Fish Soup
Silky poached fish is presented in an herbed saffron broth, spiked with fennel and Pernod. Crisp croutons drizzled with rouille accent the soup. Chef Barbeau notes that the fish would probably overcook if cooked in the broth; instead, she controls it by cooking the fish separately, then placing it in the broth. She likes the combination of salmon and halibut, although other similar fish could be used.
- Onion - 1 medium
- Olive Oil - 4 tablespoons
- Fennel bulb - 1/2 cup, thinly sliced
- Celery - 1/2 cup, thinly sliced
- Leeks - 3/4 cup, thinly sliced
- Dry white wine - 1 cup
- Garlic Cloves - 6, thinly sliced
- Fish stock - 1-1/2 quarts
- Canned Tomatoes - 1 cup, diced, drained
- Bouquet Garni*
- Pinch of saffron
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- Pernod - 2 tablespoons (optional)
- Good-quality Bread - five, 3-inch squares
- Red Peppers - 3, roasted, peeled and seeded
- Shallot - 1 large, roughly chopped
- Salt - 1/2 teaspoon
- Garlic - 1 teaspoon, minced
- Fresh basil - 1-1/2 tablespoons, chopped
- Cayenne Pepper - 1/8 teaspoon
- Extra-Virgin Olive Oil - 3/4 cup
- Bread Rounds - 16 to 24, 2 inches in diameter and 1/3-inch thick
- Olive Oil - 6 tablespoons
- Garlic Cloves - 2, cut in half
- Fish fillets - 1-1/2 pounds, cut into large cubes (combination of salmon and halibut works well)
- Olive Oil - 4 tablespoons
- Unsalted Butter - 4 tablespoons
- Garlic - 2 teaspoons, minced
- Dry white wine - 1/2 cup
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Black Olives - 12, pitted and julienned
- Fresh Fennel Sprigs - 8
- Mixed Herbs - 2 tablespoons, chopped, mixed such as thyme, tarragon, oregano, and parsley
*Bouquet Garni: Lay an 8-inch square of cheesecloth on a work surface. Place a few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, 1 torn bay leaf, a few sprigs celery tops, 5 to 8 white peppercorns, 2 to 3 crushed garlic cloves, and a few crushed fennel leaves in the center. Tie into a bag with white cotton string.
Cut the onion in quarters, then into slices 1/4-inch thick. Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the onions, fennel, celery, and leeks and cook, stirring regularly, for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add the wine and stir up the glaze on the bottom of the pan. Add the garlic and reduce the liquid by half. Add the fish stock, tomatoes, bouquet garni, and saffron, crushing the saffron between your fingers before adding it to the pot. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Lift out the bouquet garni, squeezing to extract all the flavor. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the Pernod.
To make the rouille: Moisten the bread with water and squeeze out the liquid, breaking the bread into pieces. Put all the remaining ingredients except the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse twice. Turn the machine on and slowly drizzle in the olive oil. When all the oil has been added, thicken the rouille with the moistened bread, pulsing until combined. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.
To prepare the croutons: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the croutons and saute until lightly browned on both sides. Remove and drain on towels, then rub with the cut garlic on one side. Set aside.
To prepare the fish: In a large saute pan, combine the olive oil, butter, garlic, and wine. Bring to a boil. Add the fish and poach over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the fish is just opaque throughout.
To serve: Ladle two cups of saffron broth into each soup bowl. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Divide the fish among the bowls, placing the fish in the center of each. Surround the fish with croutons, three per bowl, and drizzle each crouton with rouille. Sprinkle each with black olives and garnish with fennel sprigs and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.