This year we had the second in what appears to be gaining momentum as an annual New Year’s Eve tradition: a fabulous collaborative dinner party with some of our dearest friends. The invitation was this: Richard will make the main course, bouillabaise, and each couple will bring other contributions to the meal and a bottle of bubbly.
We worked at the store all day, very busy with pickups for parties that evening. I stole away an hour or so to go home and set the table – something I really love to do. Some gorgeous Indian saris (formerly the curtains at our restaurant!) were perfect for a festive tablecloth. I added candles to create a festival of lights, sprinkled rose petals all around the candles, and then gently placed a few of my favorite buddha statues in between to create a welcome table for our guests.
New Year’s Eve 2009 Dinner Menu
Vegetarian pate and “tapenata”
Homemade bread, Steve
First Course, Maria
Watercress and Endive Salad with beets, toasted walnuts and goat cheese
Main Course, Richard
Chocolate Bomb Cake by Elise
Fresh fruit platter by Joan
New York Cheesecake by Laurie
Here are Richard’s notes on Bouillabaise
The name alone is enough to send a buzz through any room. Bouillabaise is right up there with cassoulet as a dish that has inspired countless writers to wax poetic on its’ merits and what constitutes the real deal. What exactly is a true bouillabaise? Can anyone who is not from Marseille, let alone not French make one? How many cookbooks must one consult, what fish to choose, the list goes on. Many will say that it is “rascasse”,the bony scorpion fish found in the Mediterranean, that gives an authentic bouillabaise it’s character. Purists be damned! I declare that a wonderful fish soup/stew by any name is a thing to behold and eat with great pleasure.
The wonderful thing about bouillabaise is that it is just as much fun to prepare as it is to eat. No use making dinner for two, this dish demands a large dinner party! I started several days before by making a fish stock, or fumet, from cod and snapper bones that were a gift from Gadaleto’s fish market in New Paltz.
Trimmings from leeks and fennel flavored the broth. Shrimp shells were saved for shrimp oil and numerous other shrimp (for shrimp cocktail) were poached in the broth further deepening the flavors. The day of, lobsters were par-cooked, the meat taken out and bodies returned to the broth for further cooking. Finally the broth was strained and allowed to settle.
Next leeks, onions, celery, and fennel were simmered with tomato and garlic in a shrimp oil that had been made from the shells. Saffron, crushed fennel seeds, a few red pepper flakes and a pinch of herbs de Provence were added. Then julienne orange peel, a few diced potatoes and the broth were added and allowed to simmer. Finally the clams, shrimp and monkfish were added to complete the dish but not without a generous splash of Pernod. The alchemy was almost complete!! Served in large bowls with a garnish of toasted baguette and a large dollop of garlicky rust colored rouille to swirl into the broth, the bouillabaise was finally complete.
To make a good bouillabaise truly all that is needed is a really good seafood broth and to respect and include the holy trinity of Provencal cookery: fennel, saffron, orange and a love of good food, especially seafood.
Great food is always a way to celebrate the years end, life and good friends. Bon appetit.