Let me tell you about what Eric Ripert cooked for me in Spain
He inspired me to make this recipe for you...
I miss cooking with my friend Eric Ripert. It’s been so many months. Hopefully you had a chance to hear our conversation last week on my new podcast. I’m so grateful that the incredible chef of New York’s Le Bernardin, and my dear friend, was my very first guest. When we talked, I reminded him of the amazing bouillabaisse he made for our families one summer when they came to stay with us in Spain.
Of course, we all know he is one of the greatest seafood chefs, but in that dish, he showed what an astonishing cook he really is. His bouillabaisse, with lots of fennel flavor, inspired me to create my own special version rich with fennel and potatoes instead of fish. I loved it so much that I ended up putting in my cookbook Vegetables Unleashed.
When I first tried this new version, I could not get enough of the anise flavor I loved, so I said to my team, ‘let’s add two cups of Pernod!’ After some funny faces and a couple test runs, they convinced me to go a little lighter, and we settled on just a quarter of a cup. It is an important quarter of a cup to make this bouillabaisse amazing, though…and you should add a little more if you love anise. Now, when I miss my friend Eric, I make it in his honor and taste a little bit of that summer vacation in Spain.
The recipe calls for an important addition for every bouillabaisse, the rouille. This classic French sauce—an emulsion of garlic, olive oil and saffron—is similar to the allioli of Spain. Spread it on slices of bread and serve alongside the warm soup. The sauce is also perfect to serve with grilled fish and shrimp…keep it covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and get the grill going now that the weather is beautiful. For the potatoes, if you don’t have fingerlings, russets will work just fine. Just peel them and cut them into 1/2-inch pieces.
For the bouillabaisse:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb (fronds reserved), halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced