This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
The provencal fish-stew; is not a very formidable dish to prepare. The cooks of various hotels and restaurants in the southern sea-coast towns of the United States make it two or three times a week as a matter of routine, and are not pinched to the requirement of any particular sort of fish for it. The plentiful and almost boneless red-fish (channel bass) is taken for the foundation and any others may be mixed in sparingly. It is required to have, besides the cut-up fish, oil, white wine, garlic, leeks or onions or both, saffron or tomatoes, red pepper and herbs. The onions, leeks and garlic finely minced are half fried in the oil in a broad saucepan; the pieces of fish put in and the frying continued with a little gentle shaking until the fish is set firm. Then the wine is poured in, perhaps a little water or stock, the pepper, herbs, salt and saffron, and the stewing goes on for an hour without a lid. The liquor or gravy is required to be like thick soup, is either boiled down or thickened with roux, well skimmed, served like a stew, fish and sauce together. The modern tomato is supplanting the ancient saffron in dishes of this class, and the Creole bouillabaisse made with tomatoes is acceptable to everybody.
" Bouillabaisse is a fish soup for which the Provencal fishing towns are famous, chiefly Marseilles. Garlic is essential to it, as to nearly all the Provencal cookery; but those who eschew garlic may still obtain from it a good idea of how to concoct a savory fish soup. Thackeray's 'Ballad of Bouillabaisse'has given it a great name in England, but most Englishmen find it disappointing. It is a soup to be mightily loved or to be abhorred.
'This Bouillabaisse a noble dish is - A sort of soup or broth or brew Or hotch-potch of all sorts of fishes, That Greenwich never could outdo; Green herbs, red peppers, mussels, saffern, Soles, onions, garlic, roach and dace; All these you eat at Terre's tavern In that one dish of Bouillabaisse'.
"Choose a variety of fish - soles, red mullets, dorys, whitings, flounders, perch - avoiding the oily sorts, as the herring and the eel. The mussels mentioned by Thackeray are a pleasant addition. Reckon from half to three-quarters of a pound for each person to be served. For every pound of fish put a pint of water into a stewpan, a quarter of a pint of white wine, and a tablespoonful of oil. Then, supposing there are four or five persons to be provided for, add two sliced onions, two cloves, two bay leaves, two leeks (the white only, but chopped), four cloves of garlic, a tablespoonful of chopped parsley, a little orange or lemon zest, half an ounce of chopped capsicums, a teaspoonful of saffron (but many tastes crave a whole tablespoonful), pepper and salt. Into this mix the fish, which have been well trimmed as well as cut into pieces, and boil them for half an hour. The Marseillaise declare for rapid boiling on a brisk fire, pointing out that the name 'Bouillabaisse' means Bouillon-abaisse - that is, broth rapidly reduced by evaporation. This rule, however, is not always followed. When the soup is to be served, drain the fish and put them on a dish apart, making, spite of Thackeray, a pretty good clearance of herbs and spices.
Strain the soup by itself into a tureen, with, it may be, sippets of toast in it. It is more common, but not so good, to serve soup and fish together. Kett-ner's recipe for the famous Provencal fish stew (as set forth above) differs materially from that adopted at the Hstel du Louvre et de la Paix, Marseilles, where bouillabaisse is unquestionably cooked to perfection. We are able to give this recipe:
Poissons: Rascasse, vives, teterase, rougets, verdeau tache rouge, chapons, macquerau, merlan, anguille de mer, langoustes (petites), cigale, galinette, St. Pierre. N. B. - Le poisson doit etre hive et nettove dans l'eau de mer, l'eau douce lui enleve sa finesse de gout.
" 'Composition: Huile fine, un pea de cognac, un peu de vin blanc, poivre moulu de frais, sel, saffran, oignon, bouquet garni, ail tres peu. N. B.-Bouquet se compose de laurier, basilic, sauge, thym, fenouil, persil.
"'N. B.-Cuire viviment pendant sept minutes'.
"The rascasse, or telerasu, is a reddish fish like a perch, with a similar spiny process on his back. This is the prime fish of the bouillabaisse. Of the remainder, the little red mullet of Marseilles, the mackerel, and the whiting-, are well known. The galinette is the gurnard; the St. Pierre is our familiar friend, Mr. John Dory; and the langouste is the sea crayfish commonly seen in London fishmongers' shops. It is believed that in the Mediterranean the .angouste is better than the lobster, which is rarely in condition in these southern waters. The anguille de mer is an eel caught among the rocks of the Riviera, and the verdeau is altogether a temarkable fish; it is like a salt-water pike in the expression of its face and the shape of its body. Its coloring is curious. It is of a metallic greenish blue, not so vivid as that of the fresh sardine, but very bright, and divided like a map by orange lines, which suggest a survival of a sometime mail-clad fish. Any piece of alligator-skin will convey the exact idea of the shape of these markings.
The vive is the weaver of English waters".