STAFF MEAL | Digging Into A Provencal Feast Before Service Starts At Gastown’s L’Abattoir

May 8, 2015.

Baking-team-digs-in

by Ken Tsui | It’s another fully booked night at L’Abattoir in Gastown and it’s chef Greg McCallum’s turn to make staff meal. Tonight, he’s preparing one of his favourite dishes: bouillabaisse.

Bouillabaisse is a Provencal fisherman’s soup and a French bistro classic. It starts with a fish stock made from the remnants collected from deboning fish for service. From there, McCallum sweats chopped fennel, onion and rutabaga before pouring in tomatoes. As these cook, he makes rouille – a sauce (and essential companion of any proper bouillabaisse) consisting of saffron, mayonnaise, garlic, fresh herbs, and olive oil.

Once the vegetables have softened, McCallum pours in the fish stock. Waiting for the stock to come to a boil, he busies himself steaming mussels. As they begin to open, he fishes them out, pouring the briny mussel liqueur into the pot of simmering bouillabaisse. Nothing goes to waste in this soup.

With the bouillabaisse finally coming to a boil, McCallum removes the big pot from the heat and adds off-cuts of seafood collected during prep. These include cod belly and “ugly scallops”; bivalves deemed too misshapen for a diner’s plate. He lets the residual heat from the pot gently poach the seafood, bringing it all into the dining room and putting fresh herbs and the steamed mussels atop the pot of soup.

Pastry chef Hilary Prince follows him with a lemon tart, a batch of brownies, and freshly baked French bread. The other cooks follow Hilary and Greg like the Pied Piper just as barman Shaun Layton arrives with a big pot of boozy punch. And so, with bowls and drinks at hand and dollops of rouille spread on big chunks of bread, the staff dig in.

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