Bouillabaisse à l'Américaine

This luxe seafood soup from star chef Daniel Boulud starts with a fantastically rich-flavored broth made with fish heads, bones, lots of aromatics and tomatoes. Saffron-laced potatoes, snapper and bass fillets, shrimp and mussels all go in at the end and the dish is served with the best rouille we've ever tasted. Slideshow:  More Seafood Recipes 

Bouillabaisse a l'Americaine
Photo: © David Malosh
Active Time:
1 hrs 45 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs
6 to 8


Garlicky Rouille

  • 1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

  • Pinch of saffron threads

  • Kosher salt

  • Pinch of cayenne

  • 6 superfresh garlic cloves

  • 2 large egg yolks

  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Herb-and-Spice Sachet

  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

  • 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 4 thyme sprigs

  • 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise, or 6 large cloves, crushed

  • Three 3-inch-long strips of orange zest


  • Two 2-pound whole black sea bass, cleaned and filleted, heads and bones reserved

  • One 4-pound red snapper, cleaned and filleted, head and bones reserved

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 yellow onions, chopped

  • 3 celery ribs, chopped

  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne or crushed red pepper, plus more for seasoning

  • 1/4 cup pastis

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved

  • 1 pound plum tomatoes, quartered

  • 1 pound German Butterball or small Yukon Gold potatoes, quartered

  • Kosher salt and white pepper

  • 1 pound mussels, scrubbed and debearded

  • Crusty baguette, for serving


Make the garlicky rouille

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine the potato, saffron, a pinch of salt and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook until the saffron water is reduced by half and the potato is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Cool completely, then transfer the potato and saffron water to a blender. Add all of the remaining ingredients except the oil and pulse to combine. With the machine on, slowly drizzle in the oil until well blended. Season with salt. Transfer to a serving bowl; refrigerate.

Make the herb-and-spice sachet

  1. Assemble all of the ingredients on a piece of cheesecloth, wrap into a bundle and tie with kitchen string.

Make the bouillabaisse

  1. Rinse all of the fish heads and bones until the water runs clear. Cut the fillets into 2-inch pieces and transfer them to a bowl; cover and refrigerate.

  2. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole or pot, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, celery, fennel, leek, saffron and cayenne and cook over moderate heat until the vegetables soften, 8 minutes. Add the pastis and cook until evaporated. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until beginning to caramelize, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the fish heads and bones, shrimp shells, herb-and-spice sachet and enough water to just cover, about 16 cups. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderately low heat for 20 minutes, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Stir in the tomatoes and cook gently for 30 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain well.

  5. Pick out and discard the herb-and-spice sachet and any large fish bones. Working in batches, transfer the contents of the casserole to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean pot, pressing on the solids.

Finish the bouillabaisse

  1. Bring the soup to a simmer. Add the potatoes. Season the fish with salt and pepper and add to the soup. Cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and mussels, cover and cook until the mussels open and the fish and shrimp are cooked through, 2 minutes longer. Season with salt, pepper and cayenne.

  2. Stir 2 tablespoons of the hot soup into the rouille. Ladle the bouillabaisse into shallow bowls. Serve with the rouille and crusty bread.

Make Ahead

The rouille can be refrigerated for 2 days. The soup can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for 3 months.

Suggested Pairing

Bandol white.

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