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DigiBites: Orinda’s Chef Charles Vollmar Shares The Recipe For A Very French “Bouillabaisse”

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Photo: Chef Charles Vollmar, CEO / Chef Instructor / Travel Guide Epicurean Exchange.

Editor’s Note: Veteran readers know we have an enduring affection for great food here at NEWS24/680, and that we share our kitchen experiments with you from time to time. Those periodic (and amateurish) excursions into the Culinary Arts made us realize that many of you have the same inclination, and that you might be interested in a professional rendering of recipes gathered from around the world now and again.

Enter Chef Charles “Charlie” Vollmar, CEO/Chef Instructor of Orinda’s Epicurean Exchange, a local business specializing in culinary travel and the preparation of great food from exotic locales. (Tough job but someone has to do it.) Chef Charlie has agreed to supply us all with some of his favorite recipes when he’s not on the road, so here we go:

“From Vieux Nice, France on the French Riviera, comes a dish we prepared with our culinary partner, Rosa Jackson of Les Petits Farci Cooking School! Fish is not as available in this part of the region as it is in Marsielle, several hours west of Nice. This dish highlights the flavors of bouillabaisse, but using chicken instead of fish, and finished with a classic Rouille.”

Chicken “Bouillabaisse

“I first tasted this dish at a restaurant up in the hills of Nice. It has the flavours of the Provençal fish stew bouillabaisse, but with chicken replacing the fish. The chef wouldn’t give me the recipe but with a little research and tinkering I came up with this version, which is possibly better then his!” – Rosa Jackson, Les Petits Farcis

  • 1 free-range chicken, cut into pieces, or 4 free-range chicken legs, each cut in half
  • 2 big pinches saffron threads
  • 1/3 cup pastis (or other anise-flavored alcohol) (80 ml)
  • 1/3 cup white wine (80 ml)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 3/4 cups tomato coulis, homemade* or storebought (Italian passata) (450 ml)
  • Bouquet garni of fresh fennel leaves (optional), a few sprigs flat-leaf parsley and a strip of orange peel, tied together
  • Rouille (see recipe)

• Skin the chicken if you like, or score the skin so that the flesh absorbs the marinade, In a separate bowl, stir together the saffron, pastis, white wine, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Set aside for a few minutes (or longer) so that the saffron releases its color. Pour the marinade over the chicken. Turn the chicken with your hands to thoroughly coat, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the refrigerator to marinate for 12 – 24 hours. Turn the chicken at least once as it marinates.

• Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Dry the chicken pieces on paper towels, reserving the marinade. Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the drained chicken pieces and brown carefully on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Meanwhile, cut the peeled onion and fennel in half, removing the core of the fennel, and slice thinly. Remove the chicken to a Dutch oven and reduce heat under the skillet. Pour away any excess fat, keeping about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion and fennel slices to the frying pan along with a large pinch of salt. Sauté until softened and pale gold. Pour the reserve marinade over the onion and fennel, turning the heat to high. Once it has reduced until almost syrupy, add the tomato coulis and cook for a few minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

• Bury the bouquet garni among the chicken pieces and carefully pour the tomato sauce over the chicken. Season to taste and cover with the lid. Bake (or simmer on the stove) for about 45 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked through. Avoid cooking too long as this makes for dry chicken. Serve with rouille, a spicy garlic mayonnaise (see recipe).

* To make your own tomato coulis, cut ripe, fresh tomatoes into quarters and place in a saucepan with a pinch each of salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a gentle bubble and reduce until thickened. Strain through a food mill.

Serves 4

Recipe Courtesy of Rosa Jackson, Les Petits Farcis, Nice France

 

Rouille

“This spicy garlic mayonnaise is traditionally served with fish soup, but it also accompanies my chicken “bouillabaisse”. If eating with fish soup, spread it on toasted slices of baguette sprinkled with gruyere and float in the soup.”

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, 1 teaspoon chili paste or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 slice dry bread soaked in milk or water
  • 3/4 cup olive oil (200 ml)
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 pinch saffron, crushed and soaked in a little warm water
  • Freshly ground pepper

• Crush the garlic with the sea salt and chili pepper in a mortar. Add the egg yolk and the bread after squeezing out the excess milk. Add the olive oil drop by drop, always turning the pestle in the same direction. The mixture should thicken like mayonnaise. Squeeze in a little lemon juice to taste, add the saffron and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Makes about 1 cup

Recipe Courtesy of Rosa Jackson, Les Petits Farcis, Nice France

25 COMMENTS

  1. O mama! Now I have to find a way to get the only real cook in the house to try this out.

    • @Lourdes – Doesn’t it though? We had to maintain professional restraint while formatting the piece.

    • @Barb – Quite possibly. Changing things up and nice to have Chef Charlie bring his expertise to the site!

  2. I’m in. Yes. Now please. I don’t think I could be patient enough to wait for it to cook!

  3. Appreciate the positive response to this initial post! This recipe is easy, delicious and presents beautifully! If you like what you see, I have plenty of others to share! – Chef Charlie

    • @Charlie – Welcome, Chef! Great fun getting this up for the readership today and we’d love to do it again. Bunch of dedicated Foodies here, we know!

  4. Drooling uncontrollably. But I have to know — how do you pronounce Rouille? I’m saying roo-eel.

  5. I’ve been making this dish for years. It’s easy to make, and it’s delicious. I skin the chicken. Try it everyone! Looking forward to more recipes…

  6. More please! Talking about food is a favorite pastime. I will even promise to try the recipe — I just won’t promise it will look the same as the picture when I’m done!

  7. do you have a good local source for saffron threads? they treat them like gold in the stores. i found some spanish saffron at lunardis but it was really really expensive. (nice column).

  8. spread it on toasted slices of baguette sprinkled with gruyere and float in the soup – the French really know how to live!

  9. Made this tonight and it was deelish! Had a little trouble sourcing som eof the ingredients and wanted everything the chef said we’d need. Had some help with the cooking and finished with some superior wines. Just wanted to let you know!!!

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