Storming the Bouillabaisse

The Eiffel Tower is illuminated during the traditional Bastille Day fireworks display in Paris July 14, 2013.  REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes (FRANCE - Tags: SOCIETY TRAVEL CITYSCAPE ANNIVERSARY) This year we decided to have a Bastille Day* dinner – simply in order to get together with friends and eat French food and drink French wine: an indulgence. What to cook? Something that is suitable for a dinner party but doesn’t require a lot of last minute attention.  I decided on a bouillabaisse. Simple, but delicious.  And for before and after? I have a recipe for a terrine that is probably as old as my youngest child – pheasant and pickled walnut terrine, courtesy of Two Fat Ladies – which I’ve never properly made, either because I couldn’t find fresh pheasant or pickled walnuts.  This time I was able to source both, in fact I had a jar of pickled walnuts in my pantry and a pheasant was readily available from my favourite poultry shop – A.C.Butchery.   And for dessert?  I’m not a dessert person, I don’t have a sweet tooth; but I always feel that I should make something for guests.  I decided on a classic Tarte au citron.

So today has been my prep day.  I went to the fish market to purchase fish and seafood for the bouillabaisse; bought ingredients for baking, some cheese and all the other things I needed.  Back home I skinned my pheasant and took all the meat off it (they’re tough birds!), chopped up the meat and set it to marinate with red vermouth.

Next I put the fish heads and bones into a pot to make stock and thought I may as well use the pheasant carcass to make a stock. It went into the oven to roast first (in order to make a richer stock).  I also decided to make some pickles to go with the terrine.  I’d bought some little Dutch carrots, baby turnips and tiny little radishes.  A quick pickle which will be ready tomorrow.

Then to the pastry for the tart.  I came across an interesting recipe that is probably the easiest and fastest I’ve ever seen (courtesy of David Lebovitz):  you place butter, oil, sugar, water and a pinch of salt into a bowl in the oven (210 degrees) and leave in for 15 minutes until the butter has melted  and there’s a slight brown foam around the edges.  Take the bowl out, add flour and stir.  For less than a minute!  Its that simple.  And then line the flan shell with the pastry and bake it in the oven for 15 minutes.  The texture of the pastry is very buttery.  It was extremely thin which meant it tended to crack but David provides a neat trick: leave aside a small amount of dough to smooth over the cracks with. Works a treat.

All I have to do tomorrow is make the terrine, bouillabaisse and the rouille, mix the filling for the tart and bake it, et voilá!  Dinner is ready.  Its going to be a rather early dinner so that we can get through it all – I think I’ve rather over-catered. We won’t be storming the Bastille.

Our menu:

  • oysters
  • pheasant & pickled walnut terrine with pickled vegetables and freshly made rye bread (courtesy of my husband)
  • bouillabaisse with rouille on toasted crusty baguette slices
  • tarte au citron
  • cheese (a comte and a St Siméon, which is a rich creamy cow’s milk cheese.  I’ve been warned that its very, very runny – yum) with dried muscatels, pear and walnuts.

So to all francophiles:  bon appetit!

*I have to note that the French do not call it Bastille Day – its an American invention and one which Sidonie Sawyer from the Huffington Post is particularly insistent about. She points out that according to Wikipedia: “Bastille Day is the name given in English-speaking countries to the French National Day, which is celebrated on 14 July each year. In France, it is formally called La Fête nationale: The National Celebration) and commonly Le quatorze Juillet: the fourteenth of July).”