Bouillabaisse is a fish soup I make every year for Christmas Eve.  I use between five and seven different types of seafood depending on what is available.  With so many ingredients, it is tough to make this in small quantities.  I freeze the leftovers.  We always have a Christmas in July celebration by thawing out and serving the bouillabaisse.


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, choppped
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano, about 1/2 cup chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seed crushed or chopped
  • 2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • NO SALT – wait until the end to taste for salt as some of the seafood will already be very salty
  • 4 cups seafood stock or bottled clam juice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with liquid, 15 ounce
  • 1 can tomato paste, 6 ounce
  • 1 pound fresh cod fillet, skinned and boned
  • 1 pound bay scallops (the small ones)
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound king crab, shelled and cut into large bites
  • 1 8-10  ounce lobster tail, shelled and cut into large bites
  • fresh little neck clams, about 3 to 5 per person

To make fish stock:

Shell the shrimp, crab and lobster tail.  Cut shelled seafood into large bites and set aside for later (keep refrigerated).  Cover shells and any seafood scraps in a large pot with 6 cups water.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer.  Allow to simmer for several hours adding water as liquid is reduced.  Don’t let liquid continue to boil or the liquid will get cloudy and taste bitter.  Add additional water if water is reduced to less than 4 cups.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve.

To make the bouillabaisse:

Add diced onion to olive oil in large stock pot.  Saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and herbs/spices and saute for another 3 minutes.  Add fish stock or clam juice and dice tomatoes.  Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Add tomato paste and mix thoroughly.  Add all the seafood except the little neck clams.  Turn burner off, cover  and let flavors mingle for up to 2 hours.  Seafood will not be completely cooked at this point.

After soup has rested for several hours, taste for seasoning.  Add black pepper and fresh oregano to taste.  No salt yet because the little neck clams with definitely add salt to the broth.   Turn burner on medium high and cook seafood for about five minutes.  With a large slotted spoon, remove seafood to a bowl and cover with a cloth or foil to keep warm.   Add the little necks to the soup and gently boil just until the clams open.  Keep a close eye on them, it should only take 5 minutes or so.  The fresher the clams, the longer it will take for them to open.  Taste broth for saltiness and add sea or kosher salt to taste.

To serve, use large soup plates or pasta bowls.  Place some the seafood that as been removed from the broth into each individual bowl making sure that every bowl has some of each different seafood.  Ladle broth over the seafood and top with 3 to 5 opened clams in each dish.  Garnish with fresh oregano.

Serve with warm french bread or see my recipe for a gorgeous bread wreath made from frozen dinner roll dough and sprinkled with fresh herbs.


6 Responses to Bouillabaisse

  1. Anonymous says:

    I’m definitely going to make this for a tailgate party. Do you not add saffron? Also I will be just making the broth and adding the seafood at the game. Do you think it will turn out the same?

    • I don’t add saffron, but I guess saffron is used in the classic recipe. I find the key item to include is the fennel seed or ground fennel. The flavor really enhances and compliments the seafood. You could add the seafood at the game, however, I think you get a big flavor boost by letting the soup rest after adding the seafood. Maybe you could add the seafood to the broth at home, but don’t cook it. Heat it at the game long enough to cook the seafood, which should only take 5 to ten minutes. Good Luck!!

  2. Donna says:

    I need to 4 times this recipe. Can I do this all at once or should I prepare one batch at a time? Also does it matter what type of onion you use and do you dice it fine? I can’t wait to try it!

    • You could definately make a bigger batch of this recipe. Don’t change the methods, just the quantities. I usually use sweet Vidallia onions, but you could also use white onions. I don’t recommend red onions. Chop the onion in a small dice. Good luck! I love this recipe. You can freeze your leftovers.

  3. Marianne says:

    Yum!! I have never used Saffron until very recently. I absolutely love making Bouillabaisse but will try the saffron next time. There are so many family ways to cook this dish. My grandmother used to cook it in a way that was like crab spaghetti. She called it crab monasta, I have no idea how to spell it and I can never find anything similar online. It was insanely delicious

  4. Marianne says:

    Here is a link to something that looks and sounds similar to what I was referring to. Although this is with linguini, which makes more sense. I remember my grandmother used to cook the sauce foreeever, so it was a rich, dark red. Anyway, you would be licking your fingers when cleaning the crabs and no one cared how messy you were. 🙂 Sadly, my grandmother passed on, and my father is the only one left who knew how to cook it. I never tried myself because I am now on the west coast and no longer in New Orleans, so blue crabs are not cheap here. One of these days, though, I’ll try it.

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