Pier W’s Famous Bouillabaisse has been on the menu since the West Side landmark opened 53 years ago, according to executive chef Regan Reik. It originated centuries ago as a dish made by Mediterranean fishermen.
“They’d have trim and pieces from all this beautiful seafood they’d … cook down to the bones to make a broth, along with some other things, and then use that flavorful broth to poach the other fillets of fish that would go into that soup,” he explains. $35, 12700 Lake Ave., Lakewood, 216-228-2250, pierw.com
The fresh seafood: The lineup of shellfish poached in that broth remains the same: three to four Georges Bank scallops, three Prince Edward Island mussels, three top-neck clams, five gulf white shrimp. The six ounces of three to five finfish, however, can change. A typical mix might consist of cod, snapper and bass. “I may be serving halibut for a special that day,” Reik says.
The saffron tomato broth: Reik calls the stock “the foundation of the whole dish.” “Fresh seafood and fresh fish, for the most part, intermingle wonderfully when you pair them with the tomato and saffron,” he enthuses. A slowly sauteed white mirepoix imparts the earthiness of celery, the sweetness of onion and fennel, and the nutty bitterness of garlic. White wine – “Normally, we’ll use a Chablis” – and fresh tomatoes add acidity, while salt, pepper and red pepper flakes give the broth a little kick. The final ingredient: hand-crushed saffron threads that go for $150 an ounce.
The crostini and rouille: Reik’s version of the traditional side is two to three slices of French baguette brushed with garlic-laced olive oil before oven-roasting. “It’s just something that has a nice aroma,” he says of the result. “It’s something that nine out of 10 people are going to recognize.” The rouille is made by combining some reduced broth with saffron, breadcrumbs and mayonnaise. Once topped, the crostini are dunked in the broth and used to chase down those last little pieces of fish.