You could call this a failed fisherman’s soup; it has all the elements of bouillabaisse except, of course, the fish. It was Joseph Wechsberg’s chapter on bouillabaisse from his delightful gastronomic memoir, Blue Trout and Black Truffles, that prompted this recipe. His listing of ingredients before you get to the fish—fennel, potatoes, saffron, orange, and tomato—sounded absolutely delicious on their own, strong and aromatic. And they are. The classic accompaniment to fish soups, the bold rouille (a garlic mayonnaise with the fiery addition of crushed cayenne) is equally good here.
This stew can be cooked entirely on top of the stove, or it can be started on the stove and finished in the oven. This is the kind of food that cooks beautifully in earthenware and looks wonderful served directly from the baking dish: Make this just before dinner or hours before. The flavors will merge as the stew sits, but it’s delicious both ways.