I love the produce of summer–for me, the challenge becomes enjoying as much of it as I can while its still in season. While my produce-lust is usually fruit-centric, one of my veggie favorites: fennel. This delicious vegetable has fronds kind of like dill and a bulb that is sweet, subtle, and anisey–the flavor is just quite unique and the perfect foil for fish. Today, we have a Red Grouper served over Fennel braised in a Citrus Tomato Sauce.
I originally went to the grocery store with sea bass in mind, but it seems red grouper was in the cards for me, so red grouper it is! The grouper worked wonderfully, but I still would lean towards a nice white fish next time around (like sea bass, halibut, mahi, etc).
This dish was simple and tasty–the kind of thing that is good for a hot summer day when spending a lot of time in a hot kitchen just isn’t a very appealing notion. You have the sweet, subtle flavor of fennel enhanced with the brightness of orange, a combination that seemed to really reinforce each flavor. The tomato provided a backbone, but the fennel/orange stood on top of it and cut through the fish nicely. I was originally inspired by bass served over a tomato fennel broth.
- knob of butter
- olive oil
- ~1 lb fish filet (I used red grouper, but sea bass, halibut, or mahi would be more appropriate)
- 1 can whole tomatoes
- ~1/4 cup acidic white wine
- 1/8-1/4 orange juice
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 shallot
- 1 fennel bulb and some of the fronds
- orange zest
Begin by prepping the veggies: mince the shallot and garlic, julienne the pepper, and separate the fronds from the bulb of the fennel, coarsely chopping the bulb and setting the fronds aside.
In a hot pan, melt some butter and warm up some olive oil. Sauté the fennel bulb, pepper, and shallot for about 8 minutes, after which you should add in the garlic for another minute or two. Deglaze with wine.
At this point, add the orange juice, zest, salt, pepper, and hand-crushed tomatoes into the mix. I also inserted a handful of the fennel fronds to further impart some more fennel goodness in there. Simmer this (covered) for about 10 minutes, letting it simmer for another 5 minutes uncovered to give everybody time to get to know one another and to soften the fennel up.
Meanwhile, ensure your fish is free of any pin bones or any other undesirable things and portioned to your liking. Season it with salt and pepper on all sides and sauté the fish in butter until cooked through, figure somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 minutes (depends on the fish, thickness, etc).
At this point, all that’s left is to plate the dish. I simply made a mound of fennel and stood the fish over it with a bit of orange zest and fennel fronds for garnish. Enjoy!