Kit Leland’s California Style Bouillabaisse


Kit Leland and her husband Hayne live just down the hill from us. As you can see from the photo, they have a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge from their deck. Kit served on the Board of Philharmonia Orchestra and often organized our annual Gala; something she did superbly. Over the years they have become terrific friends. They host wonderful dinners and over cocktails we get to admire the view. One evening she made this lovely California version of Bouillabaisse which we adore.

The view from Kit Leland’s balcony

The view from Kit Leland’s balcony

  • 3-4 tbsp Olive Oil

  • 3-4 cloves of Garlic

  • 1 large or 2 small Fennel Bulbs, thinly sliced or shredded with a mandolin

  • 28 oz can of Whole Peeled Tomatoes, seeded and chopped

  • Saffron, several pinches

  • 1 cup or more of good quality dry White Wine

  • 2 tbsp Pernod (optional) or to taste

  • 1 tbsp Sugar

  • zest of 1 Orange

  • 1 tsp crushed Fennel Seeds

  • 3-4 cups Chicken Broth or Fish Stock

  • ½ cup Parsley, chopped

  • ½ cup or more fresh Basil, chopped

  • fresh ground Pepper

  • Salt

  • 2.5 lbs assorted firm fleshed Fish and Shellfish, such as shrimp, scallops, halibut, salmon, mussels (etc.)

Make the broth
Set a large casserole pot on medium heat and coat the bottom with olive oil. Add garlic and fennel and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes, fennel seeds and saffron and cook for 10 minutes until the mixture begins to change colour. Add the wine (and Pernod, if using), sugar and orange zest, cook for about 5 minutes. Add the stock, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes. Add ground pepper and salt to taste, adjust seasonings. Add half of the chopped parsley and basil.

You can make the broth up to a day ahead and store in refrigerator.

Prepare the seafood
Rinse, bone, skin and cut the fish into 1.5 inch chunks (or have done by fish monger). Rinse and prepare the shell fish. Store in fridge.

Final Step
As your guests arrive, heat up the broth to a simmer, and remove the seafood from the fridge. 10 minutes before serving, gently add the seafood to the simmering stock and cook until just done (and mussels have opened), about 5 minutes. Ladle into pre-warmed bowls, drizzle with olive oil and top with additional chopped parsley and basil.

Serves 6

Nicholas McGegan