This satisfying chicken and vegetable soup is made with a delicious nod to the traditional bouillabaisse from the south of France. Oh, how we love spending days lunching and lounging at our favorite beach club, Nioulargo (click on the name to enjoy the scene) and then heading to Chez Camille, for bouillabaisse made in the time honored traditional fashion. Click on the soup name to learn about this famous beach restaurant and the incredible process of making this traditional dish (and to hear a handsome voice speaking French).
Do not worry, Splendid ones, this soup recipe offers the pleasures of a bouillabaisse, but it is much easier to make. Also, it is made with chicken instead of fish.
Beyond being joyfully drenched in a saffrony broth, this soup provides a great excuse to indulge in aioli. Aioli is a garlicky mayonnaise from that region which is very easy to make and is delicious on everything. We like to keep a tub in the refrigerator to add to sandwiches or dollop on salads for a delicious burst of garlic and green olive oil flavor. You may want to indulge in a bottle of cold Rosé wine with this dish, no need to wait for summer! The Pernod and fennel root round out the classic bouillabaisse flavor profile.
5 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 boneless-skinless chicken breasts, sprinkled with salt, pepper and thyme leaves.
1 red onion, chopped (for easier chopping, with a sharp knife, halve the onion, then cut through the onion layers, cutting through the arches to the desired thickness. Then cut the other way, again, being mindful of the size of pieces you desire)
1 cup chopped celery (about 4 stalks)
(for quicker chopping, with a sharp knife, run the blade down the length of the stalk, making 3 or 4 “streamers” depending upon your desired size. Next, cut width-wise to desired size). For a minced vegetable, use these techniques and then chop the pile, left to right, right to left until it is the desired size.
1/2 cup chopped fennel root
2 cups coarasely chopped ripe tomatoes (about 2 medium tomatoes)
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup white wine
3/4 cup Pernod (or Pastis)
10 sprigs fresh thyme
Place saffron threads in medium sauce pan over medium high heat, stir around until you smell the fragrance, then pour in chicken stock (this allows the saffron flavor to infuse the broth).
Allow the seasoned chicken to sit at room temperature for up to an hour.
Drizzle olive oil into the pan and heat over medium high heat.
Cut the chicken into 1 inch chunks.
Put chunks in heated oil. Cook until lightly browned.
Remove chicken from pan and cover to keep warm.
Toss potatoes into remaining oil/fat, allow to become golden brown and remove from heat (store in oven if possible). The potatoes can be omitted, or if another starch is desired, cooked pasta, cous cous or rice would be nice.
Reduce heat to medium, add chopped onion, celery, and fennel root, cook until just translucent.
Add tomatoes and garlic to vegetables. Cook until the tomatoes are just soft.
Add saffron infused stock, Pernod, wine and the thyme sprigs.
Bring to a simmer and allow to cook for 1/2 hour. After about 25 minutes, add the chicken and allow it to warm.
Set the table with soup bowls and spoons. The potatoes can be put in the soup bowl with the soup ladled over them.
Serve with a large bowl of aioli (<-<-<- click on the name to go to the recipe — this can be made the day before) to dollop on top!