The funny thing about bouillabaisse is that like a lot of ‘fancy’ foods it has a very humble upbringing.

Think of oysters, snails, frogs’ legs, caviar: all these expensive foods started out as very affordable foods. Some were used to encourage drinking (oysters and caviar), others were little better than fertilizer (lobster), and some came to be on the dinner plate due to deprivation or religious reasons (frogs’ legs).

Bouillabaisse started as a way of preparing food too ugly or bony to sell at market. The dish traditionally used all sorts of rockfish and other bony fish, and then later iterations incorporated other bottom-feeding fish including monkfish. Have you ever seen a monkfish? It used to be illegal to sell them in markets in France lest they scare buyers away. It is a mean looking beast.

Today, bouillabaisse is definitely perceived as a more luxurious dish (and often still includes monkfish because despite its horror movie mouth it tastes like heaven).

The name of the dish is actually a description of the cooking method which traditionally meant bringing the broth to a boil and then adding a fish, bringing to a boil again and adding another type of fish, and so on.

Although bouillabaisse originated in Marseille, it could easily pass for a down home PEI dish. With the fall lobster fishery underway we’ve certainly added our own twist by dropping some lobster in this one.

Our recipe this month leaves out the monkfish but feel free to experiment.


Serves 6
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup diced shallots
4 cloves garlic
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced fennel
1 cup white wine
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp orange zest
2 cups diced canned tomato
1 quart fish stock
8 fingerling potatoes quartered
Salt and pepper
8 oz halibut
8 oz scallops
1 lb mussels
8 oz lobster meat
12 shrimp

On medium heat sauté shallots, garlic, celery, and fennel for 2 minutes. Add wine, bay leaf, thyme and orange zest. Lower heat and simmer gently for 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, fish stock, and potatoes. Bring back to a simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Add all the seafood and simmer until just cooked through and mussels open.
Serve right away with crusty French bread.

About Stephen Hunter

Stephen Hunter teaches the à la carte practical program at The Culinary Institute of Canada at Holland College in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. He's also the Chef Instructor for evening dining at the Lucy Maud Dining Room.

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