Ocean State Bouillabaisse

By Lisa Helme and Julia Molino

The holidays are over, the decorations stowed for another year, and winter is stretching out dark and cold. We don’t know about you, but right about now we could use a bit of sunshine and some warming comfort food–maybe a steaming bowl of Bouillabaisse?

Julia Child, the iconic chef who brought French cooking techniques to Americans, credits the port city of Marseille as the epicenter for traditional French Bouillabaisse. This dish incorporates a selection of Provençal herbs, garlic and seven kinds of bony fish unique to the Mediterranean. Finely chopped celery and carrots added to onions (called a mirepoix) is incorporated to offset the acidity of the tomatoes and the pungency of the garlic in the broth, and a bit of orange peel is added for brightness. Yum.

Garlic features not only in the Bouillabaisse broth, but also as a full-on assault in the form of a “rouille,” an atomic crouton made by mashing garlic with egg yolk, saffron and a dash of cayenne pepper, spreading on toast and floating on top of each bowl of Bouillabaisse. The rouille crouton challenges you to eat it whole or dares you to break it into bits as the bread softens and the garlic cream is stirred into the soup, thickening it and spreading its husky flavor throughout. Bouillabaisse broth is often served separately from the seafood and vegetables, and rarely served to fewer than 10 people at a time. In areas like Cap Antibe, in the sunny South of France, eating Bouillabaisse is a multi-hour event to be shared with friends and family. But bring your weekly paycheck…the fish needed for real Bouillabaisse have become so expensive that this fish stew costs a small fortune!

France, however, does not have a lock on fabulous fish stews and soups. Made with the catch of the day and the trifecta of onions, garlic and tomatoes, fisherman’s stews and soups can be found in any port city. Called “Cioppino” in Italy or “Caldeirada” by the Portuguese fishermen from Rhode Island, this is a hearty meal that can be shared with family and friends without breaking the bank. All you need is access to fresh fish and seafood.

And we have many great choices to access fresh seafood in Rhode Island; catch it yourself, make friends with a fisherman, or buy retail. If you do not have access to the first two options, you have a new choice.

Launched in 2010, Ocean Fresh Seafood is a nonprofit collective offering Rhode Islanders an array of affordable fresh seafood. Every Friday the Ocean Fresh Seafood truck appears on Long Wharf Pier in Newport to offer customers–members a choice between a full, half or bi-weekly share of the local catch. President Ross Pearsall and his team supply not only the familiar staples–flounder, striped bass and shellfish– but also the full range of fish and shellfish that are found in Rhode Island waters, including skate, bluefish, and tautog, either whole or filleted. All excellent candidates for a succulent catch-of-the-day fish stew!

Another important mission of Ocean State Fresh is to brand Rhode Island Seafood as the country’s best. Ocean State Fresh is working to assemble a force similar to the highly successful Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board. LSPMB is a powerful alliance of seafood-associated industries, including fishermen, aquaculturalists, restaurants, retailers, marketers and more, who joined together to effectively lobby for healthy change and promote Gulf Seafood. Taking a page from their playbook, Ocean State Fresh is on a mission to brand Rhode Island Seafood as the best and freshest our country has to offer.

Branding can help stoke demand for Rhode Island Seafood both at home and nationally. Rhode Island squid, for example, is world class, as is our monkfish. However, when you order calamari in a fancy Montauk restaurant you probably do not realize you are eating Rhode Island Seafood. Perhaps as part of a branding campaign we need a contest to rename the humble monkfish–sometimes called the poor man’s lobster—to bring it the fame that the Patagonian toothfish enjoys since it was renamed Chilean Sea Bass? The name “Chilean sea bass” was invented by a fish wholesaler named Lee Lantz in 1977. He was looking for a name that would make the ugly and unattractively named, yet tasty, toothfish attractive to the American market. He considered “Pacific sea bass” and “South American sea bass” before settling on “Chilean sea bass” as more artisanal. In 1994 the FDA accepted “Chilean sea bass” as an “alternative market name” for Patagonian toothfish, and the rest is history.

Ocean Fresh Seafood recognizes that learning new and interesting ways to prepare fish is key to increasing demand. They supply members with new recipes, often courtesy of Rhode Island’s professional chefs. We especially like Chef Matthew MacCartney’s version of the classic Cookpot, his Rhode Island salute to classic French Bouillabaisse.

A veteran of the restaurant Jamestown Fish, Chef Matthew’s spicy Jamestown Cookpot includes tomato, saffron, fennel, leeks–similar to a classic Bouillabaisse–but also hot pepper and chouriço, a Portuguese sausage similar to Spanish chorizo.

“When writing the first menu for Jamestown Fish, I wanted to create a dish that would be our signature. First, it had to be decadent and scream FISH. Second, I wanted the dish to have, as we say in the wine world, terroir, or a “sense of place,” says Chef Matthew. “Finally I wanted the dish to represent me and who I am as a cook, through my travels and training.” The result is his Jamestown Fish favorite, Cookpot.

To make the dish decadent he based it on Prime Hardshell Lobster, which yields abundant and sweet lobster meat and a flavorful broth made from the shell and carcass. “The final touch is the addition of lobster roe butter that sends the dish to the edge of being over the top in terms of flavor, “he adds.

The secret local ingredient in the Cookpot is Rhode Island chouriço. “The addition of this smoky, peppery, Portuguese pork sausage adds another layer of flavor and depth to the dish and gives a nod to the local community and its culinary traditions. And to achieve a further sense of place, I comprised the Cookpot of lobster, monkfish, sea scallops, mussels and clams, all harvested locally and all available year round so the Cookpot can always be offered.”

Chef Matthew goes on to explain that at Jamestown Fish they serve the dish in a covered flame red ceramic cocotte, or Dutch oven. The result is a dramatic presentation for both the person that ordered the dish and sometimes for the other guests in the dining room that see it pass by. Matthew adds, “The Cookpot is indeed a compilation of the flavors I tasted, techniques I learned and places I visited over my career as a cook and how harmoniously all those facets come together in one little red pot.”

While we love a glass of wine with the Cookpot, sometimes a cold, crisp beer is just the thing for some pallets. Mark Heallendrung, President, Narragansett Beer, says “I would suggest our Cream Ale, an all-malt, pre-prohibition style Cream. The Munich and Vienna malt characteristics pair well with seafood in general and the front forward flavor of the Columbus hops will marry well with the saffron of the Cookpot.”

John Callahan, noted wine expert and owner of Bellevue Liquors in Newport adds his thoughts on the perfect wine pairing for the Cookpot in the adjacent table.
Whether you choose the wine or the beer, be sure to enjoy Chef Matthew’s recipe, either at home or at Jamestown Fish (reopening for the season this month.) Be sure to let us know how much your family and friends enjoy it…send us your comments and pictures!


Matthew MacCartney – Jamestown Fish
4 servings

The Broth
32 oz Lobster Stock 10 oz Peeled Tomato and Juice
2 oz Pernod 3 oz Tomato Paste
½ tsp Hot Pepper ¼ tsp Fennel Seed
¼ tsp Saffron 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
2 Anchovies

Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut into the lobsters between the eyes. This is the quickest and most humane way to kill them. Remove the claws and the tails and reserve raw. Remove the body from the shell and then remove the pale green gills and discard them because they will make the broth bitter. Also remove any dark green roe and reserve on the side to make the lobster butter. Discard any pale green tomalley. Cut the lobster body in half, and add to a pot with the shells and cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. Cook the claws and knuckles in the simmering broth for two minutes and remove. After about a half hour of simmering the broth should be done. Strain the broth into a new pot. Add the above ingredients to the broth, and simmer them together for 15 minutes then blend with a hand blender to release all the flavors. Strain the broth and reserve. Take the reserved Lobster Roe and puree it with soft butter in a food processor until smooth. The ratio is 3:1, butter to roe. The color will be pale green. Reserve the butter in the refrigerator.


2 Lobster (live 1 ¾ lbs.) 8 Diver Sea Scallops (med size)
8 oz Monkfish 8 littleneck clams
8 fingerling potatoes (cooked) 4 oz raw diced leek
16 slices hot chourico 16 rope grown mussels

You will need a casserole with a cover large enough to fit all the seafood. A cast iron 5qt pot works great.
Add all fish except Mussels and the half cooked lobster claws to the pot. Place the Clams and Monkfish on the bottom, followed by the scallops potatoes, leeks and Chourico. The raw lobster tails, (cut in half) are placed last on the top, above the broth. Pour the broth in the pot and cover. At this point, you are ready to cook. Turn on the flame at medium high and cook for 6 min or until the lobster shell begins to change color, (black to reddish), and the clams are beginning to open. At this point, add the mussels and lobster claws, cover the pot and cook for 2 minutes more. Uncover the pot and be sure the mussels and clams are open and the lobster is bright red. If so, turn off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, transfer all the fish and veggies to a serving bowl and cover to keep warm. Using a hand blender or whisk, mix the lobster butter into the broth. The hand blender works best. The broth will be bright pink/red and frothy. Pour the broth over the fish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle parsley over the top, and serve with toasted bread.

Wine Pairings

John Callahan, owner of Bellevue Liquors in Newport and noted local wine expert says that if you are in the market to bring the South of France to the table, The Chateau Minuty Prestige Rose, 2012 would work quite well with our Rhode Island salute to Bouillabaisse. “Known as the ‘Wine of St. Tropez,’ The nose reveals purity and finesse and is initially rather restrained but quickly evolves with notes of tart red fruit such as red currants and raspberries. Wonderful crisp and lingering finish – on sale for $24.99.”
For something less expensive, John notes that Chilean and other South American estate vineyards produce some of the greatest value wines. To pair with the Jamestown Cookpot, he recommends:

• Santa Carolina Leyda Estate Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 – An incredible value at $9.99. “This is a bold wine with dry citrus, orange blossom and hints of tropical fruits. It stands up well to the bold flavors of the dish.”
• Finca El Origen Torrontes Salta, 2011 – A deal at $11.99. “This is a high elevation, cool climate white wine from north of Mendoza in Argentina. Its complex aromatic expression makes it an intense and attractive wine to pair with the Cookpot. In the nose, there is a balance between floral and fruity aromas, with rose petals and lavender standing out, as well as orange peel and pineapple.
• Santa Carolina Casablanca Estate Pinot noir, 2011 – A truly great value at $9.99. “Casablanca Valley is also a cool climate region and ideal for this lighter red wine made from the Burgundian grape with notes of licorice, wild strawberries and red currants.”