Oven-Roasted Fish with Wine-Braised Fennel

This recipe caught my eye in the April 2011 Food and Wine magazine as part of an article with healthy wine and food pairings with recipes from Alexandra Guarnaschelli.  I love the fresh anise-y taste of fennel, but had never cooked it myself.  I found some beautiful small fennel bulbs at the grocery, had the tilapia I’d found on sale in the freezer and thought, why not?!  I adjusted it just a bit–choosing tilapia over halibut, leaving out 1/4 cup golden raisins from the fennel.

You need just a few things to make this beautiful, healthy and yummy meal:

  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 2-3 fennel bulbs, cut through the core into 1-inch thick wedges.  (Figure 1 small fennel bulb per person.  Leave a bit of the core intact to hold the leaves of the fennel together.)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup plus 1 TBSP dry white wine  (Serve the rest with dinner!)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1-2 pound of fish  (Figure about 1/2 pound per person.)

Preheat the oven to 450F. 

In a large skillet, heat 2 TBSP olive oil.  Add fennel wedges cut side down.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.  Cover and cook over moderate heat until fennel is browned–12 minutes.  Turn halfway through the cooking time.

Add 1 cup wine, water and bay leaves.  Simmer over low heat, turning the wedges a few times until most of the wine is evaporated and the fennel is tender.  15-18 minutes.

Mmmmmm–this smells so yummy!  I started my fish during the time the fennel was browning, so it was in the oven for the time the fennel was braising in wine.  The timing was perfect!

Spread minced shallot over the space your fish will occupy on a sided baking sheet.  Sprinkle 1 TBSP wine over the shallots.

You’ll be seasoning the fish with salt and pepper on both sides.  If your fish has a skin side, season that side first and place it skin side down on top of the shallots.  Rub 1 TBSP olive oil on the top side of the fish and season with salt and pepper.

Roast the fish on the top shelf of the oven for about 12 minutes, until it is barely opaque in the center.

Plate a portion of fish with it’s cooking juices along side the braised fennel. 

I also cooked some black “forbidden” rice to add a starch and some color; starting it just before the fennel.  Everything was done within minutes of each other–a beautiful, healthy and yummy meal in about 40 minutes.

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