Monday, February 01, 2010

A really good, tasty and economical soup!

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When someone says "bouillabaisse," what come to most folks’ minds is the traditional fish soup of Marseilles with lots of fish and shellfish involved. But in traditional Provençal (Southern French) cooking, there are several varieties: eel, cod, snail, even chicken, or as in today’s recipe, poached egg.

This is a delicious, fast, easy and economical recipe. This is often known as "poor man’s bouillabaisse." According to Cuisine et Vins de France, a French culinary magazine, it is also known familiarly as "one-eyed bouillabaisse."

You shouldn’t be afraid of poaching the eggs in the soup as long as they are very fresh and you've kept the liquid to a bare simmer. If you are, use oven-proof bowls, put the hot soup in them on a baking sheet. Heat in a 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes, or until the soup has tiny bubbles around the edges. Break the eggs in the soup and by the time you get it to the table, the eggs will be poached to a soft-yolk stage. If you like your egg yolks firm, just leave the bowls in the oven until they’re done to your liking.

In the summer, you would use red-ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced. But this time of year, I use a can of diced tomatoes, well drained, for an excellent result. Keep the juices and add to another soup or to pasta sauce

You can make the soup ahead of time and reheat before adding the eggs, so it would be a perfect dish for a winter brunch or supper.


2 leeks (or one small onion)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 bulb fennel, quartered, cored and very thinly sliced
1 can (14-ounce) diced tomatoes, well drained
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
½ tsp. (loosely packed) saffron (optional)
1 lb waxy potatoes, preferable Yukon gold, peeled and diced
Finely grated zest and juice of one small orange
6 eggs
Fennel fronds, for garnish

Cut off the upper dark green leaves of the leeks and discard. Cut the bulb (including the light green) in half lengthwise, then slice about ¼" thick. (Or peel and dice the onion). Cook with the garlic in the olive oil, in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Add the fennel and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, but not browned.
Add the tomatoes, stock, saffron, potatoes, and orange zest and juice. Simmer about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are done. Reduce the heat so the soup is just barely simmering. One by one, break an egg into a cup and slide into the soup. Cook another 4-5 minutes, or until yolks are done to your liking. Serve immediately, garnished with some of the fennel fronda. Serves 6.

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