Soupe de Poisson

July 9, 2007

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I risked life and limb to bring you this recipe David. When the Chef de Cuisine at the restaurant I began my internship caught me taking photographs, he chased me from the kitchen and out the front door with a very sharp knife. It wasn’t the size of the knife that made me run, but the swiftness and fearlessness with which he grabbed it from the poisonnier’s hand.

The knife nicked my shoulder as it whizzed by my ear and landed in the baroque moulding. As I rounded the corner and headed down the hill, I could hear him screaming Putain! Americain! Maricón! I decided to leave Marseilles immediately and head for Antibes. Rumor around the kitchen said Chez Victor’s Soupe de Poisson was so superior it made Chez Knifethrower’s taste like fish piss.

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I found Chez Victor’s Restaurant at Pont Bacon on Cap D’Antibes. It overlooked a beautiful harbor bespeckled with yachts that were humbly luxurious in comparison to the floating excess in St. Tropez and Cannes. A good sign.

I requested a table for one and sampled the carpaccio of sea bass, the soupe, the ravioli de langouste and a bottle of Domain de Mauven Rosé. The meal deserved all four stars. This soupe was magical.

When the bill came, I told the waiter, then the host, then the hostile manager and an even more hostile owner that I didn’t have enough money to pay the bill. When I suggested I indenture myself to pay the bill, George Hamilton very quietly took me by the elbow into the kitchen.

After the kitchen staff worked me over with potato filled towels, I was given an apron, a scrub brush and a tray full of dirty pots. I scrubbed those pots until they glowed, then scrubbed them more. Within a few days, I was fileting dorade along side the poisonnier, pan searing loupe and grinding rascasse in the foodmill.

Mediterranean women go crazy for this ambrosia, David. So do the men, for that matter, if you are so inclined. Don’t forget to start with pastis around 4 pm, after a morning’s sail. A little for the soupe pot, a little more in the glass.

Soupe for 4 or more
Traditionally the red rascasse (scorpion fish) is used for soupe du poisson. Different types of fish will obviously yield different flavors. If you’re not relaxing in the South of France, I would suggest you use a small white local fish like butterfish, sole, flounder, sea bass, weakfish or snapper, depending on what coast you’re romancing the stove. If you’re sailing in the mediterranean, I suggest you anchor your yacht off Cap d’Antibes and submarine dive with your trident for the rascasse and other small rockfish.

1 kilo rockfish, gutted and trimmed
1 kilo white onion
4 cloves garlic
3 large ripe tomatoes

Saute the whole fish in olive oil with onion, garlic and tomatoes for 20 minutes to achieve a lovely marmelade. Add 1 litre of mineral water or if you really want to achieve flavor, 1 litre of the previous day’s fish stock.

Then add
2 cloves
2 pinches of saffron
2 potatoes cut in half
1/2 cup fresh tomato paste
1 fresh cayenne pepper, seeds removed
1/2 cup pastis
A bit of tarragon
1 bay leaf

Simmer for 20 minutes then pass through a food mill from course to fine 3 times. Discard the bone mush. Return the soupe to the pot with an additional bay leaf and simmer for 10 minutes. Add more pastis and 1 tsp harissa.

The Rouille
4 cloves garlic
1 pinch of saffron in 1 Tbs hot fish stock
1 whole cayenne pepper, seeds removed
2 egg yolks
1 boiled potato
Sea Salt
1 cup of olive oil
In a mortar, crush the garlic, cayenne and potato. Whip the egg yolks with the saffron and add it to the paste. Blend the oil and finish with salt.

The Crouton
Preheat the oven to 250. Cut a day old baguette in thin slices. Toss with olive oil and fresh herbs as available. Toast 20 minutes per side.

Serve
Ramekins filled with whole cloves of garlic
Baskets of Croutons
Bowls of Rouille

Ladle the Soupe in deep bowls. Rub the garlic on the crouton, top with rouille and float in the soupe 3 at a time. Try not to act like a neanderthal.

   

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