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Bouillabaisse, Hawaii-style.

Oahu chef Alan Wong makes the most of Pacific seafood - the heart of this extraordinary stew

The moment the bowl was placed before me, I knew that chef and restaurateur Alan Wong's answer to the great French fish stew called bouillabaisse was a winner. Appropriately, Hawaii-grown fish and clams, and Maine lobster reared in Kona, were floating in the herb-scented saffron broth. The pungency of garlic and the unexpected sweetness of basil blended into an aromatic siren. A long, slender crouton was anchored at attention by the mashed potatoes mounded in the center of the bowl.

One spoonful and I was hooked. Each bite unveiled a fresh nuance. The creamy potatoes, laced with crab, held a hint of garlic provided by the aioli. The aioli also added to the complex flavors of the delicate broth and various fish. The crunchy baguette crouton had a touch of garlic, too.

Wong, who developed a passion for bouillabaisse while working with French chefs in New York City, takes an approach that's far less daunting than the traditional one. Instead of working from a staggering list of ingredients, he breaks the dish down into five individual recipes, each of which stands on its own and has steps that can be completed ahead. These separate elements unite quickly to become bouillabaisse.

Translating this French classic to the Pacific is hardly a leap of faith. In Tahiti, the French have created Gallic versions of many local recipes. Your translation will likely differ from Wong's - which he serves in the Oahu restaurant that bears his name depending on your fish options. But some Hawaiian fish are distributed on the Mainland, and other fish work well, too. As Wong has demonstrated, each variation adds to the literature of bouillabaisse.

Oahu Bouillabaisse

Prep and cook time: About 2 1/2 hours total, but if all the parts that can be prepared ahead are ready, final cooking and serving take 40 to 45 minutes

Notes: Hours to days ahead, make herb broth and aioli - both go into the potatoes. And you need the broth to poach the seafood. Cook the fish after the potatoes are mashed and while the croutons are toasting.

Makes: 6 servings

Smashed potatoes (recipe follows) Herb-poached seafood (recipe follows) 2/3 cup diced red bell pepper 1/3 cup thinly sliced chives or green onions Garlic croutons (recipe follows) Spicy aioli (recipe follows) Salt and pepper

1. Mound hot potatoes equally in warm, wide soup bowls.

2. Arrange equal portions of herb-poached seafood around potatoes, then ladle the seafood hot broth over the seafood. Sprinkle servings with red bell pepper and chives.

3. Push 1 crouton upright into each potato mound, or lay on dish rim. Accompany the bouillabaisse with remaining croutons and the spicy aioli; add salt and pepper to taste.

Per serving: 910 cal., 39% (351 cal.) from fat; 64 g protein; 39 g fat (6 g sat.); 70 g carbo (6.3 g fiber); 1,168 mg sodium; 220 mg chol.

Herb Broth

Prep and cook time: 35 to 40 minutes Notes: Make broth up to 3 days in advance (you can freeze to store longer). It's the base for the bouillabaisse but makes a fine soup on its own.

Makes: 6 1/2 cups, 5 or 6 servings

1 teaspoon olive oil 3/4 cup chopped celery 1 cup chopped onion 1 cup chopped fresh fennel 1 cup chopped red bell pepper 1/2 teaspoon madras curry powder 2 tablespoons brandy 2 tablespoons Pernod (optional) 4 cups chicken or fish broth 1 bottle (8 oz.) clam juice 1/4 cup dry white wine 1 tablespoon canned tomato paste 1/16 teaspoon powdered saffron (optional) Salt and pepper

1. In a 5- to 6-quart pan, combine oil, celery, onion, fennel, and bell pepper. Stir often over medium-high heat until onion is limp, 8 to 10 minutes. Add curry powder and stir until mixture is quite fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add brandy; Pernod, broth, clam juice, wine, tomato paste, and saffron. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender when pierced, about 15 minutes. Whirl mixture, a portion at a time, in a blender until smooth. If desired, pour broth through a fine strainer into a bowl, rubbing with a spatula; discard any residue. If needed, add water to make 6 1/2 cups. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Use in bouillabaisse or ladle hot broth into bowls.

Per serving: 69 cal., 25% (17 cal.) from fat; 3 g protein; 1.9 g fat (0.6 g sat.); 6.1 g carbo (1.3 g fiber); 210 mg sodium; 2.5 mg chol.

Spicy Aioli

Prep time: About 5 minutes

Notes: Make up to 2 days ahead. Cover and chill to store.

Makes: 2/3 cup

2/3 cup mayonnaise 2 cloves garlic, pressed 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Mix mayonnaise with garlic, lemon juice, mustard, and cayenne.

Per tablespoon: 108 cal., 100% (108 cal.) from fat; 0.2 g protein; 12 g fat (1.7 g sat.); 0.7 g carbo (0 g fiber); 96 mg sodium; 8.7 mg chol.

Smashed Potatoes

Prep and cook time: 35 to 40 minutes

Notes: If making ahead, cover potatoes tightly and keep warm in a 250 [degrees] oven up to 30 minutes; stir in crab just before serving.

Makes: 6 cups, 6 servings

3 pounds russet potatoes 1/4 cup spicy aioli (recipe precedes) About 1/3 cup herb broth (recipe precedes) or chicken broth 1/3 pound shelled cooked crab (optional) Salt and pepper

1. In a 5- to 6-quart pan, bring 2 1/2 quarts water to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, peel potatoes and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Add potatoes to boiling water, cover, and simmer until tender when pierced, about 20 minutes; drain.

3. Mash potatoes, adding aioli and enough broth to make potatoes creamy.

4. Stir in crab. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use in bouillabaisse or serve.

Per serving: 241 cal., 31% (75 cal.) from fat; 4.2 g protein; 8.3 g fat (1.2 g sat.); 38 g carbo (3.5 g fiber); 91 mg sodium; 5.9 mg chol.

Herb-poached Seafood

Prep and cook time: 30 to 40 minutes

Notes: Have lobster tails split lengthwise at the market, or use a heavy cleaver to cut through from the softer underside. Or replace lobster with additional shrimp. A dramatic option is whole shrimp (heads on), available in many Asian fish markets. To keep whole shrimp intact, don't shell. To devein, push a thin skewer perpendicularly through back shell under vein, then pull skewer up to lift out vein. Repeat as needed, then rinse shrimp.

Fish, shrimp, and scallops can be cleaned, cut, and chilled up to 4 hours ahead. Chill clams and mussels covered with a damp cloth (not airtight). Scrub shortly before cooking.

Makes: 6 servings

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro 2 tablespoons chopped parsley 2 tablespoons minced shallots 1 teaspoon minced garlic 3/4 pound boned and skinned opakapaka or rockfish, cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks 3/4 pound sea (large) scallops, rinsed and cut in half 18 shrimp (about 1 lb., 16 to 20 per lb.), peeled and deveined 6 cups herb broth (recipe precedes) or chicken broth 24 clams or mussels (pull off beards) in shells, suitable for steaming, scrubbed 3 Maine, spiny, or rock lobster tails (about 1/2 lb. each), split in half lengthwise, or 6 to 12 shrimp (16 to 20 per lb.)

1. Mix basil, cilantro, parsley, shallots, and garlic with fish, scallops, and shrimp. Set aside.

2. Bring broth to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat. Add clams and lobster. Cover and simmer until clams open and lobster is barely opaque in thickest part (cut to test), 5 to 10 minutes. As clams open, lift them from the simmering broth with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

3. After 10 minutes, add seasoned fish, scallops, and shrimp to simmering broth. Bring to a boil over high heat, then tightly cover pan and remove from heat. Let stand until shrimp, scallops, and fish are barely opaque in thickest part (cut to test), 3 to 5 minutes. Use in bouillabaisse or, with a slotted spoon, divide seafood equally among wide, shallow bowls. Over high heat, bring broth to boiling, then ladle into bowls.

Per serving: 349 cal., 14% (48 cal.) from fat; 56 g protein; 5.3 g fat (1.2 g sat.); 11 g carbo (1.6 g fiber); 700 mg sodium; 200 mg chol.

Garlic Croutons

Prep and cook time: 30 to 35 minutes

Notes: If making ahead, store airtight up to 1 day.

Makes: About 18 pieces

1 baguette (8 oz.) 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 clove garlic, pressed

1. Slice baguette 1/4 inch thick on a sharp diagonal to make pieces 3 to 6 inches long. Reserve end pieces for another use. Arrange slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.

2. Mix oil and garlic. Brush oil mixture over bread slices.

3. Bake in a 350 [degrees] oven until croutons are crisp and golden, 18 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or cool.

Per piece: 46 cal., 37% (17 cal.) from fat; 1 g protein; 1.9 g fat (0.3 g sat.); 6.2 g carbo (0.3 g fiber); 72 mg sodium; 0 mg chol.
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Title Annotation:fish stew preparation
Author:Anusasananan, Linda Lau
Date:May 1, 1997
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