Swordfish à la Bouillabaisse

Swordfish à la Bouillabaisse

It’s impossible to create an authentic bouillabaisse on a small scale due to the variety and species of fish required but, in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child uses the same flavourings and technique to poach chicken – so why not come full circle and use them to poach a beautiful piece of fish, creating swordfish à la bouillabaisse? I love meaty swordfish prepared this way, but it’s a versatile recipe and you could use any fish. The saffron, thyme, orange peel and fennel are part of a classic bouillabaisse, as is the technique of boiling water and oil rapidly so that it emulsifies to form a delicious sauce. Traditionally bouillabaisse was two courses, the broth being served separately to the fish poached in it. I like to serve this dish with steamed rice and finish off the cooking liquid by pouring it over the rice to make a soupy rice broth. Be sure to stir in plenty of rouille, as that’s what makes a good bouillabaisse sublime (see video below). I love the elegance of Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay with this dish – rich stone fruit notes with a touch of flintiness and good acid to bring it all together – delicious!

Serves 2

Ingredients
  • 1 x 300g swordfish steak
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 baby fennel, trimmed and finely chopped, fronds reserved
  • Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 Italian canned tomatoes, chopped (about 100g)
  • 1 fresh bay leaf, torn
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 strip orange peel, halved
  • Pinch saffron threads, soaked in 1 tablespoon warm water for 15 minutes
  • ¾ cup dry white wine (or dry vermouth)
  • 1½ cups water
  • Steamed short-grained rice, for serving
  • Rouille, for serving (see video below)
Method
  1. Remove fish from the fridge 30–60 minutes before cooking and set aside to come to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, place half the oil into a flameproof casserole dish or heavy-based saucepan.
  3. Add onion, fennel and a good pinch of salt and place over low heat, cover and cook for 15–20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until just starting to colour.
  4. Meanwhile, rub fish all over with salt and set aside.
  5. Combine wine and water and set aside.
  6. Add garlic to the frying pan and stir for 30 seconds or so until aromatic.
  7. Stir in tomato, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  8. Uncover, increase heat and if there’s liquid in the pan, boil for a minute or so until it evaporates.
  9. Push onion mixture to the sides of the pan, add remaining oil then fish.
  10. Cook for 1 minute each side.
  11. Add bay leaf, thyme, orange peel, saffron and its soaking water and a good grind of pepper.
  12. Add enough of the water mixture to cover the fish well; you may not need it all.
  13. Shake the pan to combine everything, increase heat and bring to a boil.
  14. As soon as it boils, remove from heat and set aside for 5–10 minutes, until fish is just cooked through.
  15. Remove fish from the pan to a heated plate, cover with foil and set aside to keep warm.
  16. Return pan to a high heat and boil rapidly for 5–10 minutes to reduce the cooking liquid slightly.
  17. Garnish your swordfish à la bouillabaisse with fennel fronds and serve with rice, cooking liquid and plenty of Rouille.

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