Region: France, Provence
Difficulty: Labor Intensive
Yield: Makes 10 to 12 servings
Preparation Time: 4 hours
1. Gut, scale, and clean the fish. If the fishmonger cleans and fillets your fish, have him save the heads, tails, and carcasses. Cut the fish into 4 x 2 1/2 -inch pieces.
2. Prepare the fish broth. Rinse the fish heads, tails, and carcasses in cold water. Break the carcasses into pieces. In a large stockpot, melt the butter over medium heat, then and cook the sliced onions until soft but not brown, about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the fish heads and bones and cover with the cold water. Put in one of the bouquet garni and the wine. Bring to a boil, skimming occasionally, then reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 2 hours. Strain the fish broth through a conical strainer and set aside to cool. Discard all the fish heads and carcasses. You will have 10 cups of fish broth when finished. Clean the stockpot because you will need it in step 4.
3. After you get the fish broth going, marinate the fish in a large ceramic or glass bowl or pan with 1/4 cup of the olive oil, half of the chopped garlic, and the saffron threads for 2 hours in the refrigerator.
4. In the large stockpot, heat the remaining 1 1/4 cups olive oil over medium heat, then cook the chopped onions, leeks, and celery for 15 minutes, stirring often. Add the tomatoes, the remaining garlic, the remaining bouquet garni, the orange zest, and fennel seeds. Stir in the reserved fish broth and the saffron steeped in wine and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 40 minutes. The broth can be left like this, covered, for many hours, over very low heat or using a heat diffuser.
5. When you are ready to prepare the final stages of the bouillabaisse, bring the broth back to a furious boil. It should be boiling like mad. Keep the broth boiling furiously so the oil emulsifies. Add the oily fish and boil, uncovered, over very high heat for 8 minutes. Shake the pot to prevent sticking. Now put the firm-fleshed white fish in and boil hard for 6 minutes. Add more boiling water if necessary to cover the fish. Shake the casserole or pot occasionally. Mix the tomato paste and anise liqueur.
6. Carefully remove the fish from the broth with a slotted spoon and spatula or skimmer and transfer to a large bowl or deep platter. Arrange the fish on the platter more or less in the order in which you put them into the pot. Keep them warm by covering with a sheet of aluminum foil.
7. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer into a soup tureen or large bowl, discarding what doesn't go through. Whisk in the tomato paste-and-anise mixture. Sprinkle the platter and soup tureen with the parsley and serve with the croutes and sauce rouille on separate plates.
Variation: Serve the fish with boiled potatoes, thinly sliced and buttered. Some cooks, especially in restaurants, will add a cut-up live lobster at the same time as when the oily fish go in.