Ordinarily as a Californian, I decry hot weather. “We get plenty of sunshine!” I say. “Bring on the rain and the fire’s cozy glow.” Well, here it is, the end of March, and I realize I am spoiled. This winter was dry as a bone, but with spring has come the rain and the wet and nights in the 30′s. And flu season. Working on my second cold in as many weeks and a single warm maternity cardigan, I cry uncle. I’m ready for our usual spring weather (heck, our usual weather) — 75 degrees and sunny. I want sandals and sundresses and time in the hammock. I have optimistically assembled adirondack chairs and ordered outside rugs for the deck, only to watch them soaking in the rain. (We won’t address the fact that “tired of cold weather” may translate in my bruised and battered psyche to “tired of being pregnant” with May seeming very far away indeed.)
This will probably all come back to bite me this summer when I face yet another triple digit day at home with an active preschooler (almost kindergartener! How did THAT happen?) and a baby who wants to be held all the time (which is, IME, all babies), but right now I could use some sunshine, even if it’s just sunshine on a plate. Eating a springtime salad for dinner when it’s 50 degrees inside your house just seems wrong, but by March I am done with hearty beef stews and warming casseroles. Enter chicken bouillabaisse. Sure, it’s a stew, but one that is lighter, fresher than your typical stew, singing of warmer climes and summer.
Along the Cote D’Azur, pretty much every restaurant offers a version of fish soup. Made with the local catch, it is always served with croutons, rouille (a garlic and saffron mayonnaise), and cheese. I had been craving a good soupe de poissons but not the trip to the fishmonger to get the bones to make the stock and the fish to puree into the soup and .. . well, you get the idea. Chicken bouillabaisse, though less traditional, is infinitely simpler, and offers many of the same flavors. I make mine with fennel, herbes de provence, and, because I had it, a pinch of lavender, all of which are ubiquitous in that part of the world. Served with the requisite croutons, rouille, and cheese, I could almost imagine myself on a terrace covered with rosemary, sipping my chilled rose next to the Mediterranean.
I made the rouille in my mini food processor,adding the olive oil a little at a time. It’s best to make it in advance so the saffron gets a chance to infuse the mixture. I used pasteurized eggs to minimize the risk of food poisoning with le bebe — I would ordinarily take my chances with raw egg yolks, but that’s your call. If you’re short on time or lazy, adding some minced garlic, cayenne and saffron to prepared mayonnaise will also do in a pinch.