“What’s that?” said Ron, pointing at a large dish of some sort of shellfish stew that stood beside a large steak-and-kidney pudding.

“Bouillabaisse,” said Hermione.

“Bless you,” said Ron.

— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Now that I’m nearing lady-of-leisuredom and have the luxury of going home at 5, I can do all kinds of things in the evenings.  Namely, drinking, dancing while wearing a robot head, and cooking.  This week, I recalled that it is October, though it’s hot as blazes (75 degrees, what up), and that I had a pound of fish in my freezer.  Hence, bouillabaisse.

I took a day to defrost the fish (leftover from the ceviche I made for E’s grumpy 17-day diet dinner party) and consult the usual suspects: Elise, Julia, and Young Paul.  I learned that a true Marseillaise bouillabaisse contains no less than 6 types of fish, and that most seafood purveyors will sell fish heads and bones by the pound for fish-stock purposes.  Alas, by the time I arrived at Whole Foods yesterday evening, they had run out, so I made do with the frozen variety that had been handmade by the guy behind the fish counter.

After Whole Foods took all my money, I got home and got to work:

1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, sliced
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
6 small garlic cloves, smashed
tomatoes (I used two handfuls of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half)
zest of 1/2 orange
large pinch of saffron (I used the kind S brought back from Turkey, the authenticity of which is in question)
basil and thyme
6 cups fish or clam stock
2 1/2 lbs of various fish fillets, chopped (I used sole, rockfish, and cod)
1 lb shellfish (I used Littleneck clams)
Crusty bread to dip

1. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat, then add the onions, shallots, and fennel.  Cook for a few minutes until veggies soften, then add the garlic.  Saute for a minute or so.

2. Add the tomatoes, orange zest, herbs and spices.  Saute a couple more minutes.

3. Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 20 minutes.  The liquid should reduce by about half.

4. Add the fish and reduce heat to medium.  Let simmer for 2-3 minutes.

5. Add the clams and cook until they open completely (about 4 minutes).  Let the whole thing simmer for a few more minutes.

6. Serve with crusty bread and white wine (we opened a bottle of St. Supery sauvignon blanc).

Serves 6.

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