Monday Night Martha: Curried Tomato Seafood Bouillabaisse -- Maybe

This week for Monday Night Martha we decided to try Martha's Curried Tomato Seafood Bouillabaisse.

Bouillabaisse, basically a fish soup made up of various kinds of fish and a variety of herbs and spices, is generally thought to be an abbreviation of bouillon abaisse - meaning "broth lowered" or "to reduce by evaporation".

If you are looking for a quick and flavorful way to poach some fish for dinner this is a nice recipe. It was easy to put together and we served it with saffron rice.

If, however, you were hoping to make traditional bouillabaisse this is not it.

In his book, Provence A-Z, Peter Mayle says of bouillabaisse, "It has been variously described as a stew, a soup of gold, a mystical experience, a magical synthesis, beach food, a divine seduction, or the reason God invented fish."

What qualifies as bouillabaisse, and what the "correct" ingredients are is a topic that has been hotly argued for generations. There is even an official Bouillabaisse Charter, (which was basically cooked up by a some Marseille chefs to establish themselves as the "true" makers of bouillabaisse)

Now we know Martha to be exacting, a perfectionist, a stickler for details -- and yet, she plays fast and loose with the term 'bouillabaisse' in this recipe.

It is generally agreed that traditional bouillabaisse, in addition to seafood, contains tomatoes, onions, garlic, saffron, cumin, fennel, olive oil, orange peel, salt and pepper.

Martha's recipe, by contrast, calls for cardamom seeds, clove, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, curry powder, salt, and lemongrass.

We can only imagine the looks of dismay and outright contempt of the Marseillais Bouillabaisse Charter members. Lemongrass! Cinnamon? Zut alors!

Which is not to say you shouldn't try this recipe -- but we're not sure what it has to do with bouillabaisse. Did Martha just want to sound Frenchy?

Truth be told we decided to make two versions: Martha's and Julia Child's, in our own home kitchen recipe showdown. And, what can we say? Julia had her way with Martha. Here is Julia's recipe for Bouillabaisse a la Marseillais.