This article was published in The Wine Advisor FoodLetter on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/food/tsfl20070215.php.
Fish on a fennel bed
Fennel, food-trivia lovers will be intrigued to learn, comes down to us from the Latin word for "fragrant hay." It is the Ingredient of the Month for February in our FoodLovers Discussion Group, where we'll be talking all month about the topic - both the fresh bulb with its celery-like crunch and mild anise flavor, and the aromatic fennel seed that's a trademark ingredient in Italian sausage.
What are your favorite uses for fennel? I hope you'll drop by the FoodLovers forum and spend a moment reading the discussions and sharing your own comments and recipes. Here's a short-cut link that will take you directly to the topic "Ingredient of the Month February: Fennel,"
To get things started, here's one of my favorite recipes for finocchio, an old Italian-style fish dish that has become a family favorite. It's much evolved, but takes its original inspiration from a couple of Marcella Hazan's classic recipes for sea bass on fennel and bluefish on potatoes.
1 good-size fennel bulb
1 medium or one-half large sweet onion
1/4 cup (60ml) or more good, fruity olive oil
2 or 3 cloves garlic
Dried red-pepper flakes
2 fillets bluefish, sea bass, mackerel or other firm, flavorful fish
1. Trim off the root end and fronds from the fennel bulb (you can save the fronds for aromatic plate decorations if you like). Wash the bulb and cut it vertically into very thin slices, roughly 1/4 inch (6mm) thick. Peel the onion, cut it in half, and slice one or both of the halves (depending on size and how much you like onion) into similar vertical slices. Peel the garlic and mince it fine.
2. Put all but 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan and cook about half of the minced garlic and a discreet shake of red-pepper flakes over medium-high heat until it's aromatic and just starting to brown. Put in all the sliced fennel and onion and toss with the hot oil and garlic for a few minutes, until it starts to wilt. Season lightly with salt and black pepper (don't overdo - you can always adjust seasoning at the end), reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the fennel and onions are crisp-tender. Add a small amount of water if it looks like it's sticking, but the oil and natural moisture of the vegetables will probably be enough.
3. While the vegetables are cooking, preheat oven to 450F (230C). Lightly paint a 13x7-inch baking dish with a small amount of olive oil, spoon in the cooked vegetables, and lay the fish fillets on top, skin-side down. Sprinkle the reserved minced garlic on the fillets, and drizzle the remaining olive oil over them; hit with a little salt and pepper, and bake for 10 minutes or so. Take them out briefly, carefully spoon a little olive oil from the bottom of the pan and baste the fish with it. Return to the oven, bake 10 minutes more, and you're ready to check seasoning and serve.
MATCHING WINE: Both the fish and the fennel pretty much insist on a dry, acidic but not necessarily lightweight wine. I like it with a rich Southern Italian white like Fiano or Greco di Tufo, but have also paired it very successfully with Sancerre or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc; extra points if the wine is in the "grassy" style to play off the fennel.
If you have questions, comments or ideas to share about today's article
or food and cookery in general, you're welcome to drop by our online
FoodLovers Discussion Group, where I've posted this article as a new
Today's column is also cross-posted in the Food & Drink section in our
Netscape/CompuServe WineLovers Community,
To contact me by E-mail, write firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.
PRINT OUT TODAY'S ARTICLE
Here's a simply formatted copy of today's Wine Advisor, designed to be printed out for your scrapbook or file or downloaded to your PDA or other wireless device.
Speaking of Burgundy, as we'll be doing this week in the 30 Second Wine Advisor, what wine lover hasn't dreamed of touring this great wine region, meeting its wine makers, learning about its wines and dining in its characteristic restaurants and bistrots?
Now, with the respected wine-touring company French Wine Explorers, we've crafted a special, once-in-a-lifetime Terroirs of Burgundy tour aimed at thrifty, value-seeking wine lovers.
If you've long dreamed of learning Burgundy and its wines with an expert at hand but thought you couldn't possibly afford it, I invite you to consider The Terroirs of Burgundy. I'll be personally leading the July 2-7, 2007 tour, and I promise maximum "bang for the buck."
Interested? Don't delay, as the tour is strictly limited to 16 wine lovers. You can review the itinerary and details at http://www.wineloverspage.com/tour/
For more information or to make reservations, send E-mail to email@example.com or call +1-877-261-1500 (toll-free in the U.S. and Canada). And if you would like to discuss this tour with me personally, feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week's Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Chicken Musakhan (Feb. 8, 2006)
Wine Advisor FoodLetter archive:
30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
LET US HEAR FROM YOU!
If you have suggestions or comments about The 30 Second Wine Advisor's
FoodLetter, or if you would like to suggest a topic for a coming edition
and recipe, please drop me a note at email@example.com. I really
enjoy hearing from you, and I try to give a personal reply to all mail
if I possibly can. And of course you're always welcome to join the
conversations with fellow foodies on our online FoodLovers Discussion
For information, E-mail