C h i c k e n B o u i l l a b a i s s e

Meaning "boiled from below" -- buoilli a baisse -- this method

of rapid boiling to create a slightly reduced, intense broth

lends itself to chicken as well as to fish and seafood used

in the Merseilles classic. That was an invention of "nouvelle

cuisine" who first switched chicken for fish in a bouillabaisse,

just as they substituted fish for meats in the Alsatian

sauerkraut dish, choucroute garni -- innovations intended

to free the formalized French language of cuisine and allow

for new concepts. Cooking the chicken without its skin assures

lean broth, in keeping with the character of the original.

It can be prepared with fresh tomatoes, but unless they are at

peak season, canned offer more flavor. Because chicken is less

fragile than fish, this can be prepared hours or even a

day ahead of serving, but will then have to be carefully

degreased while cold. The broth is served as a first course

and the chicken with vegetables as a main course.

Both are garnished with rouille, the fiery pink cousin to aioli.


  • One 3 1/2-to-4 pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/4 cup mild-flavored olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large leek, white portion only
    coarsely chopped
  • 5 or 6 small canned Italian-style plum tomatoes
    (a 14-1/2 ounce can), coarsley chopped,
    with their liquid
  • 2 or 3 feathery sprigs of fresh fennel, or 1/2 tsp
    dried fennel seeds, crushed
  • 5 or 6 saffron threads, or 1/8 tsp ground saffron
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • A 2-inch strip of orangepeel
    (dried on the rack of a 450 F oven
    for about 7 minutes or until edges
    curl and are slightly brown)
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 to 4 cups Basic Chicken Soup
  • 10 or 12 slices of French bread, toasted
  • Rouille (recipe follows)
  • Minced fresh parsley
  • 2 peeled and boiled small potatoes,
  • 1/3-to-1/2 cup cooked rice for each portion.
Pull off all skin from chicken pieces, without cutting
into the meat. Trim off all visible bits of yellow fat.
Set chicken aside at room temperature.

Heat oil in a 4-to 5-quart casserole, preferably of enameled
cast-iron and oval shape. When oil is warm, add onion,
garlic and leek, and sauté slowly but steadily, stirring
often, for about 5 minutes. Cover and simmer over low heat
for another 5 minutes or until vegatables begin to soften
but are only faintly golden. Stir in tomatoes and their
juices, and add fennel, saffron, bay leaf, orange peel
and cayenne pepper. Simmer, uncovered, for about
7 or 8 minutes.

Add chicken pieces with a little salt and pepper and turn
through the vegetable mixture. Pour in just enough soup
to come to the level of the chicken. Partly cover pot and
boil vigorously for about 30 minutes, adding broth if needed
and stirring to be sure nothing scorches. Chicken should be
tender by that time. If not, simmer longer unless you are
preparing this in advance and reheating it. Discard fennel,
bay leaf, and orange peel.

The soup can be prepared ahead up to this point, but if so,
chicken should be only barely tender as it will cook during
the reheating. If this is to be served within 4 hours
of cooking time and the kitchen is cool, keep bouillabaisse
at room temperature, loosely covered. Otherwise, cool,cover,
and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. When stored,
this soup will become greasier than when freshly cooked, because
of added fat seeping out of the chicken. If bouillabaisse
is served immediately after being cooked, fat need not be skimmed
from the surface as it gives the dish character.


  • 5 garlic cloves
  • pinch of coarse salt
  • 4 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1 1/2-2 cups mild-flavored olive oil, at room temperature
  • 2-3 slices firm white bread without crusts, soaked
    in 1/2 cup cold water (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper or 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper
    flakes crushed with the garlic and salt
  • 6-8 crumbled saffron threads that have been soaked in a few
    drops of lemon juice or olive oil.
  • Just before serving, stir in 3 tablespoons of the
    bouillabaisse broth into the Rouille

Cut garlic cloves in half vertically and remove any green inner
core to avoid an overly sharp flavor. The garlic can be crushed to
a fine paste with coarse salt using a mortar and a pestle, or it can
put through a garlic press and then mashed with the salt. Blend
in the egg yolks, using the pestle or a wire whisk.( If you use a
blender, puree the garlic with salt and yolks.)
Gradually trickle in the olive oil, beating constantly with a whisk
or with the blender on slow speed. Watch carefully after you
have added 1 1/2 cups of oil to be sure yolks can absorb more
without oil separating. If the mixture curdles, beat 1 tablespoon
boiling water and blend or beat slowly until it is smooth.
The soaked bread can be beaten in at this point to add body 
and mellow flavor. Squeeze all the water from bread; you should
have 3 tablespoonfuls of soaked bread. Beat it into the mixture.
If you prefer an intense, oily sauce, do not add bread. Season
with salt, pepper, cayenne, saffron and lemon juice.
This sauce may be served immediately or stored in the
refrigerator for 2-3 hours. It should be served at room

Recipe from "The Whole World Loves Chicken Soup"
Reproduced by permission from Warner Books .
Copyright © 1995 by Mimi Sheraton
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