2.03.2018

Jeux de Boulettes

In Provence the jeux de boules - also called pétanques or jeu Provençal - is a very popular and pleasant way to pass a summer afternoon.

I have never played, but have observed many games during visits to France. It’s very relaxing to watch.

The boules used to play the game are rather large - about 3 inches in diameter. When talking about culinary balls - meatballs, and such - the size is much smaller, usually an inch or less.

In the kitchen, they are called boulettes. And that brings us to today’s recipe for Boulettes de Poisson à la Marseillaise, or fish balls from Marseille served in a luxurious broth, to be tested with two very special rosés from Château d’Esclans. To read more about the wine and food pairings, go to the Provence WineZine.

This recipe is based on one by renowned chef Gérald Passédat and can be found in his book, Flavors from the French Mediterranean. I discovered his work through Perfectly Provence, a site dedicated to all the wonders of Provence, curated by Carolyne Kauser-Abbott. I am fortunate to work with Carolyne as one of more than 50 contributors to the site. For Provence food and travel ideas, this is one of my favorite places to go for information and inspiration.

After ordering the book, I was inspired to make this soup for the wine pairing, but also to showcase the beautiful silver ladle recently gifted to me by friends.. They love good wines, and were interested in the wine tasting, so we made a party of the evening!

This broth is full of Mediterranean flavors - floral fennel and earthy saffron - and the boulettes add tastes from the southern coast with Moroccan preserved lemons, cumin, and cilantro.

I like to prepare the broth a day in advance to allow the flavors to meld. I serve the baked boulettes to my guests at the table and then ladle over the broth and pass the garnish. It makes for a fun and dramatic presentation.

Play boules!

~ David

Boulettes de Poisson à la Marsaillaise {Marseille-Style Fish Balls}
Adapted from the recipe by Gérald Passedat

2 pounds sea bream fillets, cut into small dice *
1 Moroccan preserved lemon, rinsed (pulp removed) and chopped
1 small bunch cilantro, finely chopped
2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
1 small bunch chives, snipped
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
3 cups bread crumbs
2 fennel bulbs, cut in 1/3-inch dice, fronds reserved
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 onion, cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 sachet saffron powder
1 star anise
9 cups fish stock
salt and pepper


Cook the shallot in a little olive oil over medium-low heat until clear. In a large bowl, mix the cooked shallot, chopped preserved lemon rind, cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes, and chives. Add the diced fish, cumin, turmeric, and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Shape this mixture into small balls (about 40), roll them in flour, roll them in your palms, then in bread crumbs to coat well. Set them on a foil-lined baking sheet. It helps to rinse and moisten your hands ever 4 balls or so. If you don't much of the mixture will stick to your hands. (make these 4-6 hours ahead and refrigerate).

In a stock pot over medium-high heat, add a splash of olive oil and cook the fennel, potatoes, and onion until the vegetables are soft. Add the saffron, star anise, and fish stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 45 minutes. (This can be made a day in advance, and reheated before serving.)

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Drizzle the fish balls with a little olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. To finish, broil the balls fro 2-3 minutes to add some nice color.

Place 5 fish balls into 8 serving bowls. Ladle the brother over the fish balls, garnish with fennel fronds, and serve.

Serves 8.


* or monkfish, striped bass, turbot, or any firm white fish. I used tilapia, as Whole Foods forgot to place my order.




37 comments:

  1. Kind of like bocce!

    At first I thought this was a type of matzo soup, but fish! Wow, love this idea. Have to say, I was surprised to see cilantro in there as it's not often seen in European recipes (that whole DNA thing). Other than that, sounds good to me, David!

    Btw, that ladle is GORGEOUS!! Lucky you!

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    1. I have always wondered how close the two games are. Is it simply the same game but one is in French and the other in Italian?

      I'm sure that the cilantro is from the southern coast of the Mediterranean… One sees a lot of it in Moroccan cooking. You could easily substitute basil or even dill for the cilantro if you wanted to make these.

      And, yes, I love that label!

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  2. I need to make this for Ed; it sounds fabulous!

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  3. Oooh more saffron, and used in such an elegant dish. Such wonderful flavours in there too, especially with the preserved lemon. Stunning, David!

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    1. It's true - I love saffron. But the flavor that stands out most is that of the preserved lemons. So good!

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  4. It's not quite the South of France but pétanques is very popular in Palm Springs and I've played there many, many times. While drinking rosé as a matter of fact. I hope to complete the trifecta with this saffron-scented Boulettes de Poisson. GREG

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    1. Pétanques and rosé - a combination I can get behind. And a sport I might actually enjoy playing!

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  5. This soup sounds delicious! And it looks beautiful. The color of that broth is absolutely spectacular.

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    1. Thanks, Frank - the broth is really nice, and much more subtle than I expected.

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  6. Bocce, in Italian... the nightmare of most kids, at the seaside, when the father would ask (order)(to keep the little one busy): "ok, gioachiamo a bocce", let's play bocce....
    ...here in the uk is even more ridiculous: on immaculately cared laws, at seaside resorts generally, u see, generally overfed elderly gentlemen and ladies, white dressed, throwing, more or less competently, balls in the air trying to hit the mini ball....
    .... :)... actually, I come clean: I sort of like it (in the right place, at the right time: read: holiday time, on a semi empty beach, at dusk, with not many people around)...
    Provence: for me, from what I have seen, one of the places where I would love to move: yes, they are a little ... how can I say.. on the right wing side, in the South of France, but the land is breathtakingly beautifull and the food is to die for.
    do u have the OLney's Provencal Book: amazing! (Not the Lulu's book, one he wrote much earlier: perhaps Time Life series??) .... ciao, stefano

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    1. My zio used to play bocce in Vermont. I like it when it isn't fancy, but real.

      I never noticed the conservatism of Provence, but I am not attuned tot he politics of regional France (or Italy,, for that matter)! But I do love the food and wine of the region. I don't have Olney's book - will look for it now!

      Caio,
      d

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  7. Merci for the mention. I love the sounds of this recipe!

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    1. De rien! Thanks fro the introduction to Gérald Passédat! Love the book!

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  8. I love how clear the broth in your soup is. It looks absolutely delish!

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    1. The clarity of the broth surprised me, Cory, as it started out murky. I am trying to figure out what made it clear - perhaps the potatoes absorbed some of the murkiness?

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  9. What an elegant, flavourful soup! Can imagine the difference the preserved lemon and dried tomatoes alongside the strong-flavoured coriander make! Have not made fish balls often: am curious enough to prepare this as soon as I get the requisite fish . . .

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    1. Eha - I have made a few different fish balls but these are, by far, the most flavorful of them. And it is owed to that lemon!

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  10. What a great looking soup. I love all the ingredients and hope to make it soon.

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    1. Thanks, Gerlinde - let me know what you think!

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  11. I've made Bouillabaisse before but not this dish. It looks very good and I've now ordered Passédat's cookbook (to add to my already huge library of cookbooks)!

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    1. Our house is listing a little to the east, and I fear it is my cookbook collection that is the culprit! I love the creative ideas in Passédat's book - and the photos are gorgeous!

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  12. This soup must be incredibly flavorful, David :) I loved the pictures in the post!

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    1. Thanks, Marcelle - always fun to revisit my travel photos for a post!

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  13. So many wonderful flavors in this soup. I'm hoping to finally get to Provence later this year when my daughter is in France on a study trip. And yes, that game looks very much like bocce!

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    1. I really think it is the same game, Domenica! You really do need to get to Provence when you are there. Such beautiful country - very similar to Tuscany.

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  14. Looks lovely David. I have just started collecting meatball recipes and will have to add this one. I remember when Louise was doing a meatball roundup and I realized I made none, EVER. Also this post made me think that, as soon as I am done eating local, I may need to start trying some of your wine pairings with the dishes. Sounds like so much fun (alas 7 months to go still...)

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    1. Seven months will pass quickly, Inger! Then the wine can pour freely!

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  15. What wonderful flavours this dish has, Southern France in a bowl.

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  16. David, I've never made a fish soup - I'm quite limited in the fish preparations I like - but this looks and sounds marvelous! What a lovely combination of flavors. And I love your new ladle!

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    1. Lucky for me, Jean, I love all fish! And sterling silver, crystal, and linen… ;)

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  17. Beautiful as always! Were they playing a variation of Bocce? Love the wine pairing!

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    1. Jeu de Boules - or Pétanques - is very similar to Bocce. Thanks, Nicole!

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  18. I love that there's always a story behind your recipes. This is lovely. I'll be on the lookout for sea bream! xo

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    1. Stories are what make life fun, don't you think Colette? I hope you find the sea bream - I will keep looking for it, myself! xo

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  19. Such a funny reminder of my birthplace... Provence! Your recipe looks truly delicious, perfect for that season ;) I'm very glad to discover your blog, the recipes and pictures are very inspirational :)

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