In this garlic-infused dish from Provence, fish and vegetables are cooked in a fragrant broth that turns into a velvety sauce with the addition of aïoli.
The dish must be served as soon as it’s ready, but you can make the broth and aïoli well ahead of time, cooking the veggies and fish just before serving. As the broth includes a strip of dried orange peel, it’s best to begin a day in advance to allow the peel to dry out.
For best results, choose a firm, white-fleshed fish such as cod (cabillaud), monkfish (lotte), haddock (églefin) or halibut (flétan). Many recipes call for the broth to include fish bones or scraps, which are then filtered out, but this optional. I didn’t use them.
For success in making the aïoli (garlic mayonnaise), the eggs should be at room temperature. If you forget to take them out of the fridge ahead of time, you can warm them by immersing them in a bowl of hot tap water while you’re making the broth.
The ingredients below will serve two people.
For the broth
1 quart (1 liter, 4 cups) water
1 bay leaf
1 strip of dried orange peel
1 tsp. sea salt or table salt
fish bones or scraps (optional)
For the aïoli
2 eggs at room temperature
2 cloves garlic
1/4 tsp. table salt, or more to taste
1/2 cup (120 ml) high-quality olive oil
Finishing the dish
1 small bulb of fennel (finocchio)
12 ounces (350 g) firm-fleshed fish (see above)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 egg at room temperature
1 tbsp. crème fraîche or heavy cream
more salt as necessary
Begin by making the broth. Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. While the water is heating, peel the onion, carve a cross into the top and add. Peel the carrot and add. Add the bay leaf, peppercorns, orange peel and salt. If using fish bones or scraps, add now.
When the water has come to a boil, turn down the heat and allow the broth to simmer while you proceed with the rest of the recipe.
Next make the aïoli. Separate two eggs, placing the yolks in a small mixing bowl (and discarding the whites). Peel the garlic, put it through a press or crush it with a mortar and pestle. Stir into the yolks. Add the salt.
Measure out the olive oil and very slowly add it to the yolks, stirring constantly, until all the oil is absorbed. Be careful, because adding the oil too quickly will cause the sauce to separate. (Should this happen, place a teaspoon of hot water in a clean bowl and add the separated sauce little by little, stirring constantly. The sauce will come together again. Then add the rest of the oil.)
Now prepare the veggies and fish. Peel the remaining carrot, slice in half lengthwise and cut into julienne sticks about 2 inches (5 cm) long and about 1/5 inch (5 mm) wide. Chop the ends off the fennel, slice in half and cut into similar julienne strips. Cut the fish into largish chunks, making about four per person.
The next step is to filter the broth. Turn off the heat and pour the broth through a fine sieve into a clean recipient. Discard the contents of the sieve.
At this point you can pause the recipe, in which case you will need to cover and refrigerate the veggies and fish.
When ready to proceed, heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil to sizzling in a soup pot. Add the chopped veggies and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they begin to wilt. Add the filtered broth and bring to a boil. Cook until the veggies are nearly tender, about 10 minutes.
Now add the fish. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes (or less), just until the fish is cooked through.
While the fish is cooking, separate the third egg and place the yolk in a small bowl. Add about half of the aïoli, reserving the rest to take to the table. Add the cream. Stir well to blend. Slowly add a small ladleful of hot broth, stirring as you go. Repeat.
Turn the heat under the soup pot down to low. Now transfer the contents of the small bowl into the soup pot. Allow the broth to thicken into a sauce, stirring constantly. Do not let it boil, or the sauce will curdle. Taste, and add more salt as necessary.
Turn off the heat. Spoon some of the sauce into individual shallow bowls. Gently add the fish and veggies. Add more sauce if desired. Top with a dollop of aïoli.
Serve piping hot, accompanied by a crisp white or rosé. Bring the extra aïoli to the table. Serves 2.