I am surely going to piss off my Marseille-based family and bouillabaisse purists alike with this post. To put it simply, bourride is bouillabaisse’s troubled half-sister. While they certainly share a common lineage, there are stark characteristics that differentiate the two. It’s almost like they both have the same mother, but who the hell is the father?
Eating bouillabaisse is a carefully choreographed religious ceremony, usually requiring 24 hours notice, whose consumption is performed in two sacred rites ending perhaps with genuflexion to the sacred cauldron.
Bourride, on the other hand, is more like a courthouse marriage done on a whim over an office lunch break, still a covenant and very satisfying but with far less ceremony and planning
I started making Bourride at the behest of my friend Jacob, a lawyer/book dealer, at my first restaurant ‘le Margaux’ in 1993. One day, I was in his bookshop looking for rare cookbooks I couldn’t afford and he started a conversation about bourride, his favorite dish and asked if I ever made it.
I don’t know why I lied, but I did. I replied with utmost confidence it was a specialty of mine and of course I’d be delighted to make it whenever he could get in for dinner again. Secretly I hoped that day would be far off enough away to properly research and test it a few times. Unfortunately, he made reservations for the next night and not only that, he was bringing eleven close friends.
Panic struck as I combed through various cookbooks hoping to find at least two books corroborating the same recipe. When I failed in that I figured the oldest book I owned probably was the closest to a true bourride, so I settled on the 1938 version written in the Larousse Gastronomique. I followed the three paragraph recipe with my Provencal mother’s irreverence to measurement and, thankfully, impressed Jacob.
Bouillabaisse is traditionally served in two courses starting with the broth ladled into warm bowls and served with garlic croutons, shredded cheese, rouille, and aioli. After seconds are offered, the whole fishes which were poached in the broth are presented to the table, filleted and served glistening in more broth. Bourride is made from fish filets cooked in the broth and enriched by a liaison of egg yolks and aioli whisked in at the last moment.
The Origins of Bourride
I started researching to find the earliest references of bourride and could not find anything earlier than Reboul’s masterpiece ‘La Cuisinière Provençale’ written in 1897. Reboul describes a bouillabaisse made without saffron and thickened with aioli and egg yolks.
Many claim the only true Bourride is made solely with monkfish in a white creamy sauce, possibly flavored with a crushed fish liver. That local variation is properly called Bourride Setoise. I once had a prominent French Chef dine at my restaurant call me to his table to tell me although it was good, what I served was not a true bourride.
People do not eat methods, they eat results
– Chef Louis Szathmary, 1919–1996
Traditionally, the base of both soups are the same with bourride being thickened with Aioli, but I prefer making a lighter broth and thickening with rouille. Provencal flavors are bolder and more assertive than in other parts of France. Rouille just adds an explosion of spice I love. I make the broth even lighter by leaving the vegetables julienned and omitting sieved rockfish.
The results are an easy to make and shareable version of a Provencal classic. Use whatever fish you can find at your local fish market. I generally like to find at least one meatier fish and some kind of shellfish.
Every time I make Bourride I think of Jacob.
Marinating the Fish
- 1 pound codfish cut in four pieces
- 1/2 pound bay scallops
- 1 pound Manila clams scrubbed
- 1/2 pound shrimp
- 60 ml olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- big pinch saffron
- small handful basil
- 1 orange zested/juiced
- 60 ml pastis
- 1/2 fennel bulb julienned
- 1/2 onion sliced
- 2 thin carrots julienned
- 1/2 pepper julienned
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 tsp saffron
- 4 San Marzano tomatoes chopped
- 480 ml white wine
- 950 ml fish broth
- 120 ml Pastis
Rouille (Use this sauce on EVERYTHING)
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 large pinch saffron
- 2 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce
- 2 tsp red vinegar
- 120 ml olive oil
- 8 new potatoes boiled/peeled
- 12 slices baguette toasted
Marinating the Fish
Place all seafood into a non-reactive bowl and toss with olive oil, garlic, saffron, basil, orange zest, and Pastis. Chop any fennel fronds and toss with seafood. Marinate fish overnight.
Sauté fennel, onion, carrots, and pepper in olive oil till soft with no color, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saffron and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add tomatoes, white wine, fish broth, and Pastis, bring to a boil then simmer for thirty minutes. Chill broth overnight to marry the flavors.
To make the Rouille, put the egg yolks, sea salt, saffron, garlic cloves, hot sauce, and vinegar into your food processor and puree till smooth. Slowly add oil until very thick. Adjust seasonings to your taste and chill overnight.
Time to Eat
Bring the broth to a boil, add seafood and cook till done, about ten minutes. Nicely arrange seafood in a serving tureen. Whisk together about 120 ml of Rouille. Ladle in 240 ml of hot fish soup and whisk till smooth and creamy. Whisk the egg mixture into the pot then pour over fish in tureen. Serve with boiled potatoes, toasted French bread, and Rouille.