Chef Daniel Boulud Shares His Signature Bouillabaisse Recipe To Celebrate 20 Years Of Café Boulud

Daniel BouludPhoto Credit: Paul Wagtouicz

As September 2018 marked 20 years of Café Boulud in New York’s Upper East Side, I wanted to celebrate this milestone with a traditional French fish stew that combines beautiful flavors from the South of France. A hallmark of Provence, Bouillabaisse found its place on the opening menu at Café Boulud and perfectly captures the character and essence of the restaurant throughout time. It’s a classic that has been slightly transformed to showcase local fish, seasonal vegetables and a more modern flair. It’s particularly appealing this time of year because it tastes like summer but comforts like fall. PaulWagtouicz


Serves 6-8 people

  • Two 2-2 1/2 pound black sea bass
  • One 4 pound red snapper
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Two yellow onions, roughly chopped
  • One leek, white and light green parts
    only, roughly chopped
  • Three ribs celery, sliced
  • One head fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp saffron threads
  • ¼ tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground white pepper
  • ¼ cup pastis
  • Two tbs tomato paste
  • Spice sachet (2 tsp fennel seed, 2 tsp
    coriander seed, peel of 1 orange—no pith,
    1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, half
    of a garlic head)
  • Six plum tomatoes, peeled and quartered
  • Six German butterball potatoes, quartered
  • One lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined,
    (reserve shells for broth)
  • One lb mussels, scrubbed, debearded
    and rinsed well
  • Salt & pepper

*Ask your fishmonger to scale, cut and filet the fish, reserve the heads and bones for your broth

Rinse the fish heads and bones under cold running water for about 15 minutes, or until the water runs clear, then remove them and pat dry with a paper towel. Meanwhile,  cut the fillets into 2-2 ½  ounce portions and set aside in the refrigerator. 

Heat a large stock pot with ¼ cup of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, celery, fennel, saffron and cayenne pepper; sauté for about 6 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground white pepper.

Add the pastis and let it reduce completely. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Then add the fish heads and bones, along with the shrimp shells, to the pot and fill with water until the contents are barely covered. Add the spice sachet, and bring to a simmer.  Let simmer for about 20 minutes on low, skimming the top as needed. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking another 20 minutes.  The soup should be barely simmering. 

Remove the spice sachet. Working in small batches, transfer the contents of the pot to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and keep warm in the cleaned stock pot. 

In a medium pot, bring 3 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from the water and set aside. 

Bring the soup back up to a very low simmer, then reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and add the cooked potatoes. Season the fish fillets with salt and freshly ground white pepper and add them into the soup. Add the mussels and shrimp;cover the pot, and continue cooking at the very lowest setting for another 10 minutes.

Taste for seasoning, and add salt, pepper or cayenne as desired. The fish fillets should be firm and opaque; the shrimp, pink;and the mussels, open. Serve in warm shallow bowls with crusty baguette and garlic Rouille.

Daniel BouludPhoto Credit: Paul Wagtouicz

For the Garlic Rouille

  • One russet potato, peeled, cut into
    small chunks, and reserved in water
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Six cloves garlic, peeled and germ removed
  • Two egg yolks
  • Two tbs bouillabaisse soup, chilled
  • One cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small saucepot, combine the potato, saffron, a generous pinch of salt and 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and cook the potato for about 15 minutes, or until the saffron water has reduced by half.  Set aside to cool completely. 

Once the potato is cool, transfer it (with the saffron cooking water) into a blender.  Add the cayenne, garlic, egg yolk and soup; blend until a smooth paste forms.  With the blender running on low, slowly stream in the olive oil.  The Rouille should have the consistency of a mayonnaise.  Adjust the seasoning as needed. 

This can be stirred right into each serving of bouillabaisse or as a spread for the crusty baguette.