The Two Faces of Rouille


Like any mayonnaise-like concoction, there are many secrets, rumors and rants entwining around rouille. I could just post the above picture of the perfect rouille, tell you all about how it is no problem to make this mayonnaise-like sauce from southern France, which is the perfect companion to bouillabaisse (fish soup). Give you a recipe, tell you how I don’t understand what everyone finds so complicated about it, and just let it be. The beautiful, delicious rouille. Perfection on first attempt.

But see, there is a problem. The above picture is only of my second attempt. Rouille has an ugly face, too. A very ugly one, which it showed on my first try:


This is what happens if you don’t pay tribute to the big secret involved in the making of rouille: It seperates, doesn’t emulsify as it should. Actually, the big secret is not a secret. Every recipe mentions it. It is just that, the first time you attempt it, you can’t imagine it could be this important. Just like I couldn’t. That is how I produced my first ever rouille. The secret is: Patience! Add the olive oil SLOWLY, DROP BY DROP, almost till the very end!

If you pay attention to that, you could choose almost any recipe and have a delicious, garlicky sauce to go with your fish soup, or just on some white bread, for that matter. I am not an expert on French cuisine, but the real rouille seems to include some monkfish liver and potatoes. I couldn’t find any monkfish and came up with the following version, which may not be authentic, but heartily delicious!

adapted from various sources
makes about 1 cup

prep: 10 mins

fish stock, 3-4 tbsp (best if homemade)
garlic, 1-2 cloves
red hot pepper, 1
white bread, ca. 50g, just the “innards”, shredded into small pieces
egg yolk, 1
saffron, a pinch
olive oil, 150 ml

Combine all ingredients except the olive oil in a tall and narrow bowl and blend everything well with the one-leg blender (or do this in your regular blender).

Start adding the olive oil while the blender is running. Add really drop by drop, every addition should disappear completely (making the mix creamier, emulsified) before you add some more. When you are more than half way through with the olive oil, you could go over to adding teaspoonfuls in a very thin trickle, but never more! When the olive oil is all used up, you should have a beautiful, creamy sauce. If it is too thick, you can add 1 or 2 more tablespoons of fish stock. Depending on your fish stock, you might need to adjust salt.

Eat with chunky fish soup (bouillabaisse, recipe coming up) and white bread, like baguette.

6 Responses

  1. Another idea to use your rouille: it is also the traditional companion of the “tielle” from Sète, an octopus pie.

  2. mmmm this sounds fantastic! and thank you for the non-secret secret tip! i might have overlooked it at first, too

  3. May I hand over at least two brownie points for not only admitting that an attempt went wrong but also publishing a picture of the result?
    I am convinced that many cooking books would much more helpful if they showed what CAN happen.

  4. You have all my sympathy! My last mayonnaise attempt looked shiny and had a wonderful silky texture – but turned out bitter and was essentially inedible. My online research didn’t really help, while some said olive oil turns bitter when using an immersion blender (due to the heat), others claimed the opposite. Ever had that problem?

  5. Véronique,
    I “read” some French sources as I was doing research and thought the “rouille sétoise” was meant to be eaten with filled squid. Thanks for the clarification!
    you are welcome!
    brownie points? How, where and when may I “spend” my points, please? :-) I really think that is what food blogs are about: telling (and showing) the whole truth!
    never produced bitter mayonnaise. Though the heat from the immersion blender is a problem while preparing a fish/meat farce (which I had while preparing a specific strudel you know of!), with olive oil I wouldn’t think it is a problem. After all, it does have a pretty high burning point and I always fry stuff in it! What might turn bitter due to overprocessing is garlic, but I assume you didn’t have any if you were preparing a “normal” mayonnaise?

  6. how strange, here in italy (in the south coast of lazio, in a town called terracina) there is a traditional octopus pie named tiella!

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