Blue-nosed bass is one of the best meaty white fish varieties around. Get it at Cook’s Seafood in Menlo Park. Its moistness and fine flavor stand up to accompaniments particularly well, particularly Provencal-type dishes. The fennel-saffron compote is indescribably delicious, tasting like the best parts of bouillabaisse, the famous fish stew of Marseilles, but in a different form. Halibut could be used instead of the blue-nosed bass if desired.
1-2 onions, diced
1-2 fennel bulbs, sliced and cut into medium-small pieces
fennel fronds from bulb, chopped
3-5 garlic cloves, diced
½-3/4 cup dry white wine
½ teas. saffron
½-1 teas. roughly ground fennel & anise seed (do in mortar & pestle)
¾ cup olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
(optional) 1T capers
2 pounds blue-nosed bass, cut into serving pieces
1.Sautee onions until soft in 2 T of olive oil.Add fennel and cook for 4 minutes.Add wine and cook on medium heat until liquid almost evaporates. Add remainder of oil, saffron and spices and garlic. Cook until vegetables are tender; approximately 8 minutes, covered.Add half of fennel fronds. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If needs more tartness, add lemon juice to taste.
2.Puree (in food processor or blender) half of the compote to use as a base for the fish.
3. Meanwhile, heat oven to 375-400 degrees.Rub a little olive oil on fish and salt and pepper.
4. Coat an oven-proof fry pan with high-temperature oil (ex: grapeseed) and turn on high until hot but not smoking. Add filets and cook on stovetop for 2 minutes (or less for thinner filets).
5. Move pan to oven and cook for 10 minutes (or less if filets are thin; or more for those who liked overcooked fish).
6. Put pureed compote under each filet and garnish top of filets with remaining fennel fronts and (optional) some capers and slice of lemon. Spoon un-pureed compute next to fish.
The fennel-saffron puree is irresistible and also makes a delicious spread or dip.
Great with full-bodied white wine like Chardonnay or a light Pinot Noir.