In the Languedoc, every cook has his or her own version of bourride. This sunny version combines the best of all of them, from the lacy saffron threads to the subtle hint of orange zest. Though monkfish is the ideal fish for this dish, any firm white fish will do, even shark. You may also add squid, for textural variety.

Usually, bourride is served atop slices of toasted bread that have been rubbed with garlic. I much prefer to serve it with fresh bread and additional aioli alongside. Diners can either stir extra aioli into their bourride, or spread it on the fresh bread.

For the aioli:

4 garlic cloves, green germ removed if necessary

½ tsp sea salt

2 large egg yolks

½ tsp Dijon mustard

½ cup neutral oil such as canola

About ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp warm water

3 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

To cook the fish:

½ tsp saffron threads

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 leeks, trimmed, thoroughly cleaned, diced

1 carrot, trimmed, peeled and diced

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and diced

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

2 imported bay leaves

The zest from ½ orange, cut in thin strips

4 cups (1 liter) fish stock

Sea salt

2 pounds monkfish or sea bass

To thicken the sauce:

2 large egg yolks

Chervil sprigs for garnish

1.  To make the aioli, place garlic cloves and salt into a mortar and pestle and grind them together to make a paste. Whisk in the egg yolks and mustard and mix until thoroughly combined with garlic, then gradually add the olive oil, one drop at a time, until mixture begins to thicken. Add the warm water then continue adding oil in a fine stream, whisking or stirring constantly, always in the same direction, until the mixture is very thick. (In the Languedoc they say the aioli should be thick enough so a spoon will stand up in it). Add lemon juice and taste for seasoning. Place two-thirds of aioli in a medium-sized bowl. Place the other one-third in a small serving dish.

2.  Crush saffron threads gently in a mortar and pestle. Place them in a small dish and cover with the lemon juice. Reserve.

3.  Place leeks, carrot, fennel and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir so that all ingredients are covered with oil and cook, stirring occasionally, until fennel and leek are softened and nearly translucent, about 8 min. Add bay leaves, orange zest, fish stock, salt, and saffron and lemon. Stir, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the fish and bring the stock back to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Cook, spooning stock over fish from time to time if it isn’t completely covered, until the fish is nearly translucent, about 8 min. Remove fish from stock and keep warm.

4.  Strain cooking juices and return them to the pan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat and reduce by half. Whisk 1/4 cup of the cooking juices and the egg yolks into the bowl containing two-thirds of the aioli, then whisk this mixture back into the cooking juices and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon in a figure eight motion over low heat until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat immediately. Season to taste. Divide the bourride among four warmed, shallow soup bowls, garnish with chervil sprigs and serve, with remaining aioli alongside.

4 generous servings

Originally published in the November 2009 issue of France Today.

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