Although making bouillabaisse may seem like a daunting, time-consuming task, cooking one big batch and freezing some for another time lets you cook once while feasting at least twice. At first glance, you might be tempted to think that bouillabaisse is a simple fish soup, as it was once a staple among French peasants and fishermen. However, this hearty seafood stew can demand a substantial investment of time and money to achieve the depth of flavors for which it is renowned. Understanding the necessary preparations is crucial to be able to successfully freeze bouillabaisse without compromising flavor or texture.
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Preparing the Stock
Although you can use commercially made fish stock as the base of your bouillabaisse, making your own fish stock is extremely easy and can be done well in advance. Combine any part of the fish or shellfish except for gills or intestines with water, white wine and aromatics such as whole peppercorns, celery, onion, thyme, bay leaves and marjoram. Let your ingredients come to a boil over high heat before reducing the heat and simmering the mixture for 30 minutes. Strain the stock and transfer it to your containers. Let it cool completely before freezing it.
The key to a delicious bouillabaisse is to start with a wide variety of fresh fish such as grouper, pollock, striped bass, snapper, cod, flounder, halibut or turbot. Other classic ingredients include leeks or onions, fennel, garlic, diced tomatoes, white wine, celery and seasonings such as chili powder, saffron, paprika, basil, thyme, marjoram and bay leaf. Heat cooking oil and sauteing aromatics for roughly 10 minutes, or until they're fragrant. Add your fish stock and tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil, simmering it over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. Strain the mixture using a fine-mesh strainer, returning it to the pot and then increasing the heat to medium-high. Add the fish and shellfish, along with your seasonings and let it cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the fish is firm and opaque and any shellfish has opened.
Unless you want to end up with frosty bouillabaisse, you need to allow it to completely cool before freezing it. Once the fish is completely cooked, take the bouillabaisse off the heat. Remove any skin or bones that might still be in the mixture. Allow the mixture to cool completely before dividing it into freezer-safe containers. Label the containers with the date and seal them shut. Bouillabaisse can be frozen for as long as six months.
Thawing and Serving Bouillabaisse
All that work will have paid off when you have your next hankering for bouillabaisse and only need to thaw and reheat your masterpiece. Remove the container from the freezer and let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Place the bouillabaisse in a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Stir the mixture gently until it is completely heated. While it's heating up, make your rouille, which is a bread sauce often used to garnish the dish. Grind chili peppers and garlic together in a food processor or mortar and pestle, until they form a paste. Then add breadcrumbs, oil and fish stock until the consistency is similar to a thick paste.