Another classic French soup, but altogether a different kettle of fish, in that the fish are normally presented without heads, tails and fins. Fillets of fish and some shellfish are cooked in the broth which is then thickened with aïoli. In the recipe below I give a method of making aïoli that will have the purists among you frothing at the mouth, but striving for authenticity can only be taken so far before it becomes self-parodying. What has been served at Frith Street over the years is a hearty fish stew with potatoes and definite Provençal ancestry. One last heresy: try swapping rouille for the aïoli in the final stage.
You can use a variety of fish. Choose from Dover sole, John Dory, brill, sliced cleaned squid, turbot or large red mullet. If you can get two or more types, all the better. Ask your fishmonger to fillet the fish for you and to give you the bones for the broth. The shellfish could be tiger prawns, mussels, clams or scallops.
Put the garlic, egg yolk and lemon juice in a food processor. Add the salt and pepper. Switch the machine on and run for a few moments to aerate the mixture and finish chopping the garlic. Add the oils in a slow but steady stream. Start with the olive oil because you might not be able to work in all the amounts given before the aïoli thickens too much. The sauce is ready when it thickens to a mayonnaise-like consistency, which is hardly surprising because that’s what it is. Keep to one side.
You will need a large frying pan, and the preliminary frying of the fish will need to be done in several stages to avoid overcrowding.
Put the fish broth in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cut all the fish fillets into large bite-sized pieces. Season the flour with salt and pepper and spread out on a large plate. Dust the fish fillets in the flour. Heat the frying pan and add
Repeat this procedure with the shellfish, except for the mussels – these are boiled in the hot broth when all the rest are cooked. Put them into the broth and, as soon as they show signs of opening, add the aïoli (or rouille). Still over a high heat, gently swirl the pan, causing the mayonnaise-like sauce to disperse. When the broth is full of scattered globules, whisk rapidly to form an emulsion, which will thicken it considerably.
Remove the pan with the broth from the heat and carefully place the fish and shellfish in the broth. Return to the heat and warm gently to reheat the whole dish evenly. Serve immediately.
© 1999 Alastair Little. All rights reserved.