This seafood stew, an impressive crowd-pleaser, can be prepared ahead of time and finished just 15 minutes before you serve it. If you leave out the crab legs, use an additional 8 ounces of white fish to keep the stew hearty.
Coconut milk is made from shredded coconut that is simmered in water and then strained to make a creamy liquid. It should not be confused with coconut cream, which has less water, or with sweetened cream of coconut. Reduced-fat coconut milk contains thickeners and other additives; it's best to use small amounts of regular coconut milk instead.
Classic bouillabaisse calls for fish native to the Mediterranean, many of which -- John Dory, weever, and rascasse -- are hard to come by in the United States. However, many fish in American waters are suitable. Avoid oily fish when making your selection. Halibut, red snapper, and monkfish are particularly good choices. The addition of mussels and lobster is not traditional but very delicious. In the French manner, bouillabaisse is served in two courses: the soup first and then the fish. It is just as good when fish and soup are served together.
So many of us were warned as children that fish bones could kill you. Yet what a memorable, if not altogether safe, impression an entire fish makes at the table before being skillfully boned. Slipping citrus into the cavity and wrapping the fish in parchment before roasting ensures that its delicate flesh attains a level of succulence and gently infused flavor that it simply cannot achieve any other way.
This recipe for fish fumet is courtesy of chef Eric Ripert and used to make his Le Bernardin Fish Soup.
From "Le Bernardin Cookbook: Four-Star Simplicity" by Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert. Copyright 1998 by Maguy Le Coze and Eric Ripert. Used by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House.