White Sea Bass Bouillabaisse From Fisherman’s Belly

Bouillabaisse Recipe

A few words from the Chef, Yanni Hassir:

“With spring just around the corner, SoCal fishermen are starting to get antsy. Water temps are rising, fin bait is moving to the mid column, and our grey ghosts are infiltrating our shores. I’m not even mentioning the quality sized brut yellowtail acting like starving wolves, or am I?

I met a bunch of my fishing buddies on the water in San Diego just a couple of days ago. We’re all looking for a trophy fish just as the winter is ending. Although lately, the bite had been off-and-on, we’re happy to be enjoying the beautiful SoCal high pressure warmth, and crystal clear waters.

seabass recipeBefore I knew it, the action starting happening. Jeremie scored a fat yellowtail at mid column, and while we were talking about the details of his rigging, my other buddy, Jay, was busy wrestling with a massive white sea bass. So I paddled over to Jay to offer some help, and while we were talking about the details of his rigging, Jeremie scores another yellowtail!

They were both so stoked. Jay offered me some white sea bass if I helped fillet the fish on the water. Sure, I can do that. I ended up with the front portion of the fish—head, stones and collars. I’ve been wanting to make a fish soup with a big ol’ fish head for a while. On the drive home, I decided to make a French Bouillabaisse. It’s a flavorful fisherman’s soup that is usually made with an assortment of fish, homemade fish stock (that’s what the head is for), and my all-time favorite seafood spice, saffron.

White Sea Bass BouillabaisseSpringtime nights are still cool. Whip out your biggest pot and be on stand-by. When a big old fish comes your way, I say go French with bouillabaisse!

White Sea Bass Bouillabaisse

(serves 4)

  • 2 Pounds white seabass fillets, skinned, chunked and deboned
  • 1 White seabass fish head, cleaned but not scaled
  • 1 Bottle of dry white wine (I used pinot grigio)
  • 3 Bottles of cold water (use the empty wine bottle)
  • 3 Tbsp. of good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Onions, one quartered, one diced
  • 6 Stalks of celery, three stalks whole, three stalks chopped
  • 3 Whole tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 3 Cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Bundle parsley, chopped
  • Small bottle of saffron (Trader Joe’s, .7 grams)
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 Lemon juiced
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp. of tomato paste
  • Store-bought or homemade sourdough bread, 4 slices cut in half and toasted


  1. To make the fish stock, start by pouring the wine and cold water into a large stock pot. Add the quartered onion, whole celery stalks, fish head, tablespoon of salt, pepper, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then simmer for one hour. Now taste for saltiness.
  2. In a separate pot heat the olive oil and saute the onions, celery, garlic and a pinch of salt/pepper for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and three quarters of the .7 gram of saffron. Saute for 10 minutes, then pour in the strained fish stock. Add the fish, the lemon juice and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.
  4. While the soup is simmering, toast the bread. Place one slice of bread at the bottom of each soup bowl and pour the bouillabaisse over the bread. Add parsley and pepper, then serve.


Fisherman's Belly is the brainchild of Yanni Hassir, a SoCal waterman whose passion extends from the ocean to his kitchen. FishermansBelly.com offers a growing list of seasonal SoCal sport fish recipes. There are tips and tricks for cooking yellowtail, rockfish, white seabass, halibut, lobster, tuna...