A French court bouillon usually entails a winy vegetable broth. But in Louisiana, where it's prononunced "coobeeyon," it's a soup made by the addition of fish to the stock as it cooks.
Neither the French nor French immigrants in Louisiana would dream of cooking shellfish or fennel in unseasoned water. The quick stock is made in a matter of minutes to provide an aromatic poaching liquid. Fennel traditionally is poached in a court bouillon and served cold as an hors d'oeuvre. For some reason, this very French preparation is called a la grecque (in the Greek style).
Serve as an appetizer with crusty bread; or cover, refrigerate and serve chilled as a light lunch. A glass of a Tuscan chardonnay/pinot grigio blend goes nicely with this dish.
- 1 pound shell-on royal red shrimp, fresh or defrosted
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup vermouth or dry white wine
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 to 5 whole black peppercorns
- 1 sprig thyme
- Juice of 1 medium lemon (2 to 3 tablespoons)
- 1 medium clove garlic, unpeeled but crushed
- 2 medium fennel bulbs, with stalks attached
- 2 large plum or Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into small dice (see NOTE)
Peel the shrimp, reserving the shells. Cover the shrimp and refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until it is translucent. Add the water, vermouth or wine, bay leaf, cayenne pepper, peppercorns, thyme, lemon juice, garlic and the reserved shrimp shells. Trim the stalks from the fennel bulbs and add them, saving a few of the feathery fronds for a garnish. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 20 minutes, creating a court bouillon. Strain into a large saute pan or skillet; discard the solids.
Cut off the base of the fennel bulbs but do not core them. Discard any discolored or damaged outer layers. Cut the bulbs in half vertically, then cut each half into 1/4- to 1/2-inch slices (about 6 per half-bulb) and add to the court bouillon. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and increase the heat to medium-high; cook, stirring occasionally to help the fennel incorporate and cook evenly, for about 10 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.
Add the shrimp and cook, shaking the pan, for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until the shrimp are just opaque.
Divide the pan's contents among individual wide, shallow bowls and garnish with the reserved fennel fronds. Serve immediately.
From cookbook author John Martin Taylor.
Tested by Geneva Collins.
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