Provencal Fish Bisque

3 slices bacon, roughly chopped (or substitute 3 Tbsp. olive oil or butter)
1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
1 large celery rib, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 lb. white fish fillets, roughly chopped
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. orange peel
Pinch of ground red pepper
Large pinch of saffron
1 quart shellfish stock, or 16 ounces clam juice plus 16 ounces fish stock or water
1/4 cup heavy cream
Dill or fennel fronds, for garnish

Cook the bacon on medium heat in a 6- to 8-quart pot until it is crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon. Set aside on a paper towel to use for garnish later. Increase the heat to medium high and add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent. Do not brown. Sprinkle some salt, to taste, over everything as it cooks.

Add the fish, tomatoes, and the garlic and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the orange peel, red pepper, and saffron, then pour in the shellfish stock or whatever stock you are using. In a pinch, you could even use chicken or vegetable stock, but the flavor of the soup will be different. Simmer this gently—do not let it get to a rolling boil—for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Get another pot ready. Fill a blender a third of the way with the soup and blend it on high (starting on low then increasing to high) for 1 minute, or until it is well pureed.

Work in batches to puree the rest of the soup. Pour the pureed soup into the clean pot. Put the soup on medium-low heat and add the cream. Stir well and taste for salt, adding if needed. Do not let this boil, or it might break. Serve garnished with fennel or dill fronds, and alongside some crusty bread. A dry rose or light red wine would go well with this; I’d suggest a Beaujolais or a Pinot Noir. Serves 4 to 6.

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