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SOUPE DE POISSON - basis for bouillabaisse

4 tablespoons olive oil 
1 cup roughly chopped celery 
2 cups roughly chopped white onions 
1 cup roughly chopped carrots 
1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped 
6 garlic cloves, crushed 
Peel of 1/4 orange 
2 bay leaves 
Salt and pepper to taste 
About 2 pounds seasonal, inexpensive fish (scaled and gutted, cut into chunks), whole sardines 
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth 
1/2 cup pastis or Pernod 
3 tablespoons double concentrated or sun-dried tomato paste (sold in tubes) 
2 teaspoons saffron threads 
4 sprigs of fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme 
6 tablespoons olive oil 

1 egg yolk 
1 small boiled potato (may use from bouillabaisse) 
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, chopped, then soaked in 1 tablespoon hot water 
4 garlic cloves, peeled 
1 cup olive oil 
Salt to taste 

1/2 to 1 cup olive oil 
1 to 2 baguettes, cut into 1/2-inch rounds 
Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving 

Choose a large pot, that will hold the fish, heat the olive oil in the pot, then add the celery, onions, carrots, fennel, garlic, orange peel and bay leaves. Sweat until the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add the fish to the vegetables and continue to sweat for 5 to 7 minutes. Add the wine, Pernod and tomato paste; cook over high heat until the alcohol evaporates. Add cold water to cover (8 to 10 cups), the saffron and thyme; bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat for 45 minutes to 2 hours. 

Strain the fish and vegetables out of the broth and place in a food processor, removing the bay leaves. Pulse until chopped fine but not paste-y. Strain through a sieve, pressing solid bits of vegetable and fish matter through, or put through a food mill. Mix the strained mixture back into the broth and bring to a rolling boil. 

If you are using the soupe as a basis for bouillabaisse, stop here and add the 6 tablespoons olive oil later. If you are serving the soupe on its own, add the olive oil and boil rapidly until the oil is emulsified into the soup, about 5 minutes. If necessary, add enough water to thin the puree to yield about 12 cups. 

For the rouille: Put the egg yolk in a food processor with the potato, saffron and garlic. Blend ingredients and slowly add the olive oil, adding a teaspoon or 2 of warm water if necessary for a thinner consistency. The finished rouille should feel like a thick mayonnaise. Season with salt. 

For the croutons: Brush oil onto both sides of the baguette slices. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the croutons turn crusty brown. 

To serve: Ladle the soup into wide, shallow bowls. Pass the croutons, rouille and Parmesan at the table. Each diner spreads rouille on a few croutons and floats them in his soup, then sprinkles on grated Parmesan. Serves 10 

For a true Bouillabaisse, use a combination of 2 or 3 of the following, freshest, seasonal, local seafood, balancing finfish, crustaceans and bivalves. Estimate 1 or 2 shrimp and 2 mussels or clams per person, plus 1 large crab or lobster cut into 10 serving pieces, plus 4 to 6 ounces fish fillet per person, or about 3 to 4 pounds of finfish altogether. 

For example, to the Soupe de Poisson (see above), add: 
Whole snapper, rock cod, bass or other bottom fish 
2 cups small yellow potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch thick 
Whole sole, gutted and scaled 
Halibut or other white fish fillet 
Dungeness crab or lobster 
Whole shrimp (preferably with heads) 
Mussels and/or clams 

Bring the soupe to a boil in a shallow pot. Add the thick pieces of fish and the potatoes, along with 6 tablespoons olive oil from the soupe de poisson recipe. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. The olive oil will emulsify into the vegetable puree. Add the remaining fish and bring to a simmer. Add the shellfish and bring to a boil. Cook just until the clams and mussels open and the fish is done. Transfer the fish to a large serving platter. Cover with foil to keep it warm. 
Bring the broth to a boil. Ladle into shallow soup plates. Place the platter of fish in the middle of the table. Lift the fillets of fish off the bone. Diners may wish to spread rouille on croutons and float them in the soup.  Garnish with Rouille and croutons, optional. Serves 10.