Yes, I’m *that* kind of diner. I’m the one that likes talking with the restaurant owners or even meeting the executive chef that prepared our meal at restaurants I dine in, if at all possible. Granted, it doesn’t happen every time I eat at a restaurant but if the opportunity is there, I’m going to take it. For me, talking with the owner or executive chef gives me a better understanding of what they are all about because it eventually is transferred into the food they serve and prepare. It also helps me appreciate my meal and the establishment even more. I dined at the ever popular restaurant, Blackbird, a couple weeks ago and not only did I have a chance to talk to Executive Chef/Partner, Chef Paul Kahan, but he prepared his special Blackbird Bouillabaisse in front of me! As a special treat, I have this delicious recipe to share…
So who’s Chef Paul Kahan? Where do I start?! Here’s a great summary to start…
Executive Chef/Partner Paul Kahan has become the nationally recognizable face for a new guard of Chicago chefs With an ever-growing list of international accolades for Blackbird, Avec and The Publican, Kahan was honored by his selection as a James Beard nominee of Outstanding Chef in 2007 and 2009, and winner of James Beard Best Chef of the Midwest in 2004. Passionately seasonal, unconventionally creative and dedicated to the inspiration of classical cuisine, Kahan has earned the praise of many who claim him to be one of America’s most influential working chefs.
In 1999, shortly after Blackbird opened, Food & Wine placed Kahan on its Best New Chefs list, recognizing his highly individual approach to cooking and the talent that Chicago diners have celebrated for years. Years of accolades and awards followed until, in 2007, Kahan was honored with a nomination for James Beard Outstanding Chef, an amazing achievement for a chef from a small restaurant without a cookbook or TV show to promote his name nationally.
If you’re a fan of Bravo’s Top Chef cooking competition show, you may have seen Chef Paul Kahan as a guest judge. Speaking of which, Top Chef judge, Chef Tom Colicchio has even named Chef Paul Kahan as one of his favorite chefs in the U.S.! There’s so much to like about Chef Paul Kahan. He is passionate about Chicago and sourcing ingredients locally if at all possible. He speaks of his wife fondly as he shares how much they love cooking together as often as possible. And of course, he makes some amazing bouillabaisse.
This bouillabaisse is one that is popular on the restaurant’s lunch menu. It’s beautifully aromatic thanks to the fresh notes of citrus and fennel. The rich color is as a result of just a pinch of saffron and tomatoes. But the best part of this dish is the seafood. A flavorful fish fumet (fish stock) adds elevated seafood notes and the fresh seafood added towards the end of the dish just puts it over the edge. This is one soup that’s easily a meal and is wonderful to enjoy during these cooler months.
recipe from Blackbird
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
15 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium yellow onions, peeled & julienned
2 bulbs of fennel, julienned
3 pounds red new potatoes, sliced into coins
1 bay leaf
1 pinch saffron
1 (28oz) can whole tomatoes, drained of half of liquid and crushed
1 gallon fish stock or fish fumet, brought to a simmer
1 lb white fish of your choice (cod, tilapia, sole, halibut, etc)
20 littleneck clams
2 pounds mussels
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 pound cooked king crab legs
1 cup Pernot (pastis)
2 tablespoons Siracha
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme, chopped
In a large stockpot, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, fennel, potatoes and bay leaf; stir to coat.
Cover and cook over medium low heat until the potatoes begin to soften, approximately 15 minutes.
Turn heat to high and stir in saffron and tomatoes; cook for 5 minutes.
Add the fish stock or fish fumet. Continue to cook over high heat until the potatoes are tender.
Add the clams. Followed by the mussels after 3 minutes, followed by the fish after another 1 minutes, followed by the shrimp after 1 minute and the crab legs just before serving.
Finish the dish with Pernot and siracha, and season with fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste.