Since the likelihood of Ina Garten inviting me over to her East Hampton barn for dinner is pretty slim, I decided to welcome her cooking into mine, by trying out her Chicken Bouillabaisse recipe from her latest cookbook, Back to Basics, for dinner. (I received this cookbook from my boyfriend’s sister last Christmas and have been wanting to cook from it for a while so this was the perfect opportunity.)
The classic bouillabaisse typically calls for seafood but her recipe takes ordinary chicken and turns them into a beautiful, deep auburn-colored Provencal stew. This recipe introduced me to saffron, the most expense spice in the world (by weight), and although I was hesitant to spend that much for so little at first, it left me with no mystery why this spice is one of the most sought-after culinary jewels, even just after the first sprinkle. The aroma the saffron produces is so beautifully potent, it fills the entire kitchen with warm, rich, floral, coppery scent, and gives this tomato-based soup an entirely new dimension.
You can get the recipe for Ina’s Chicken Bouillabaisse here.
The recipe was very straightforward and simple to recreate, with saffron, fennel, rosemary, garlic, and white wine working together to create one, big, bold, multi-layered flavor in my lime green Le Cruset pot. I substituted fennel seeds with salt and fennel seeds mixture and omitted Pernod (because to be frankly honest, I didn’t know what that was or where to find it!). I also added extra tomato puree because I had a slightly bigger can than what the recipe called for and didn’t want the rest to go to waste. Other than that, I pretty much stuck to Ina’s recipe.
Here’s the at-glance instruction:
Brown the chicken until the outside is nice and brown. Don’t worry about cooking them all the way through at this point. The chicken will have plenty of time to cook and get tender once the pot is in the oven. Remove and set aside.
Simmer the soup, stirring occasionally (time to deglaze … yum). The recipe instructs to puree the soup in a food processor, but mine was already pretty smooth so I omitted the step. After about 30-40 minutes, add potatoes.
Return the chicken into the pot and continue to cook in a 300 degree oven for about 45 minutes. The liquid cooks down, concentrating all the flavors … it’s heavenly.
By the time the bouillabaisse came out of the oven, chickens were fork tender, potato perfectly cooked, and the soup was rich and dense in flavor. I don’t know if it’s just me, but there is something gastronomically sexy about the burnt edges on the pot — something only Le Cruset can produce.
The only downfall was that I over-seasoned the stew by adding too much salt (which was surprising because I’m usually a very light seasoner), but aside from that, I was really happy with how everything turned out. I served the stew with boiled haricot verts (okay, they’re just green beans) my friend N helped me make, with a dollop of Rouille, a homemade mayonnaise with a hint of saffron, which was also used for the bouillabaisse, and a simple salad of arugula, shredded carrots, and cannellini beans, dressed with simple vinaigrette dressing. Oh, and don’t forgot the crusty, golden-brown baguette to soak all the liquid goodness.
Keep adding chicken stock or water to the leftover, reheat, and enjoy it for a week! The stew just gets better and better each day.
Ina, I love you 🙂