2000s Recipes + Menus

Provençal Fish Soup

Serves8 (first course)
  • Active time:1 1/4 hr
  • Start to finish:1 3/4 hr
March 2008
Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you: Yes, after simmering the fish with aromatics, wine, and tomatoes, we advise you to force every last bit through a food mill—heads, tails, bones, and all—for an incredibly lush soup, tasting of a beautiful union between land and sea (the food mill will strain any unwanted solids to be discarded). A garlicky rouille, exotic with a touch of crumbled saffron, further coaxes out the natural richness of the fish.

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  • 4 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), chopped
  • 1 large fennel bulb, stalks discarded, reserving fronds for garnish, and bulb chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 large celery ribs, chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
  • 2 California or 4 Turkish bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/8 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
  • 5 lb whole whiting, perch, or cod (preferably with heads), cleaned and rinsed well
  • 5 medium tomatoes, chopped (4 cups)
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 4 (3- by 1-inch) strips fresh orange zest
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 baguette, cut into 3/4-inch-thick slices
  • Equipment:

    a food mill fitted with medium disk
  • Accompaniment:

  • Wash leeks (see cooks’ note, below).
  • Cook leeks, fennel bulb, carrots, celery, and garlic in oil with herbes de Provence, bay leaves, cayenne, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in an 8-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes.
  • While vegetable mixture cooks, cut fish crosswise into 2- to 3-inch lengths.
  • Add tomatoes, wine, and zest to vegetable mixture and bring to a boil, then boil 30 seconds. Add fish, water, and tomato paste and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until fish completely falls apart, about 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
  • Arrange baguette slices in 1 layer on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown and thoroughly dried, about 20 minutes.
  • Force soup through food mill into a large heavy pot, discarding solids. Reheat soup over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Mound rouille on croutons and put 1 in bottom of each soup bowl. Pour soup around croutons.
Cooks’ notes:
  • Wash chopped leeks in a large bowl of water, agitating them, then lift out and drain.
  • Soup, without rouille and croutons, can be made 2 days ahead and chilled, uncovered, until completely cooled, then covered. Reheat before serving.
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