It’s all about the Rouille

Living the Ridgway by Tony Ridgway

In the mid 1980’s I was in the south of France visiting friends who took me to a wonderful restaurant that overlooked the Mediterranean Sea called La Pinede. We sat outdoors, shaded by tall trees and dined on “Friture” (small fried bait fish), Soup de Poisson and whole grilled local fish. It was a spectacular day.

I ate too much of everything, especially the Soup de Poisson and suffered a
“crises du foie” for several days. Soup de Poisson is a soup comparable to the broth for Bouillabaisse and one that can be oh so tempting to overindulge.

A few Saturday nights ago, I had the pleasure of preparing my own version of Bouillabaisse as part of Bayside Seafood Grill & Bar’s first Cook It Up event, a BouillaBASH. Alongside Bayside’s executive chef, Abel Gonzalez, we prepared two diverse and equally delicious versions of the dish and then let guests sample and compare them.

WATCH THE VIDEO FROM THE EVENT

This event allowed me to delve into Rouille, the classic sauce prepared with garlic, red pepper, red pepper flakes and garlic and oil, which accompanies most fish soups including Bouillabaisse. Older recipes use potato or bread to bind and originally were made by hand perhaps even in a mortar and pestle.

The Rouille is typically stirred into the soup, but can be slathered on crusty bread or used as a dipping sauce for the pieces of seafood in a Bouillabaisse. I drizzled mine over every sample and provided a small piece of sautéed bread on the side.

The flavor and richness of Rouille enhanced and transformed the dish. Rule number one when cooking; fat carries the flavor. Rule number two; our taste buds love fat. So when rule one and two meet...We’re generally happy campers.

Today’s specialized tools make the process simple. I use a high-powered Vita Mix to puree the roasted peppers and to incorporate the red pepper flakes. I then make a good lemon garlic aioli and fold in the red pepper mixture, being certain to season to taste. (Note: I use the term season to taste. Ten people will certainly have ten levels of seasoning tastes!)

If you’ve never made a Rouille or created homemade mayonnaise, it is a basic and easy process to learn, and yes the outcome is superb! An easy way to observe the basics of emulsions can be witnessed at Ridgway through our simple vinaigrette. The vinaigrettes we serve are not emulsified. They coat the lettuce more easily and require less volume and therefore you consume fewer calories and less fat. There I go again talking about healthy eating (see my last blog entry).

Regular vinaigrette is a suspension and separates. That’s why we have to shake it each time to ensure even dispersal of ingredients. By turning the vinaigrette into an emulsion you can eliminate the need for shaking each time. Simply add a teaspoon or two of Dijon mustard to the recipe and whisk it in. Voilà! Instant emulsion.

The BouillaBASH event was such a hit that Abel agreed to do another live cooking event on Saturday, September 10th from 5:30pm-6:30pm. At the second Cook It Up event, PastaBASH, Abel and the other chefs at Bayside will feature samples of Shrimp & Lobster Fettuccini. Sukie Honeycutt, our wine expert at Tony's Off Third, recommends Shooting Star Sauvignon Blanc 2009 and Ferraro Carano Chardonnay 2009 to go with the pasta samples so they'll do wine tasting of those two selections too. Plus diners can purchase bottles of these selections at 50% off during the evening. The event is open to the public, but reservations for dinner are encouraged. RESERVE HERE.

These Cook It Up live cooking events are tons of fun. Bottom line: Both versions were excellent, my Rouille still rocks and La Pinede is still serving Soup de Poisson in Cap d’Ail. Don’t you just love restaurants that can span decades!

If you'd like to learn a little about cooking, I have a few spots still open for this Saturday's Cooking School at Ridgway Bar & Grill. We start at 9:00am and end at noon. Cost is $75. Call 262-5500 to sign up.

See you in the kitchen! -- Tony

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