Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Pan-roasted bream with a quick crispy fennel salad

Fennel again. Good thing I'm not a fennel-hater, since Jamie seems to use a lot in this book; he doesn't seem to know about the fennel-hating brigade (people who don't like fennel tend to be as zealous in their vitriol for fennel as the Brussel-sprout hating lot are for innocent sprouts). I wonder if people shelve their picky dislikes when Jamie cooks for them, or if he just knows more adventurous people than I do. Anyway I happen to like fennel - a lot. I particularly like that salami and fennel pasta from Happy Days with the Naked Chef, but I suspect that salami might be another risky ingredient for some of my occasional dinner guests. The decision to make this dish yesterday was spontaneous when I went to the fishmonger (yes! I went to the fishmonger. I am off work this week and so I can do things like go to the fishmonger, which is ridiculously exciting for me. Other people take time off work and go skiing or lie on a beach in Tenerife, whilst I loll around reading crime novels and dreaming about food, and going to the fishmonger) and saw some lovely sea bream which I had filleted. I didn't ask the guy to scale the fish, which was a mistake because then the sous-chef was charged with scaling it and scales rained gently across the kitchen. Surely the nice fishmonger could have guessed we didn't want the scales? Oh well, my fault for not asking.

Scaling apart, the dish was another nice and easy one. I shaved a fennel bulb (tops reserved) with a speed peeler and put it in a bowl of iced water for 10 minutes to crisp up. Meanwhile, Simon scored the skin of the fish (this time he found a sharper knife and the task was rendered 100 times easier) and I sprinked the fish with salt, pepper and bashed up fennel seeds and dried chilli. I fried the fish on both sides on a medium heat; while the fish was cooking, I drained the fennel, mixed it with the reserved fennel tops and marjoram leaves and dressed it with lemon juice and olive oil, then chopped sun-dried tomatoes and light seasoning. I plated the fish and piled the salad on top.

We ate this with crusty bread and good white wine. It was a lovely dinner, absolutely bursting with flavour - fast food (faster if the fillets are scaled for you!) but bearing little resemblance to the usual fare that comes into that category. Another keeper...


FreyaE said...

All this dishes you make look so lovely and unheavy. I'm a bit squeamish about fennel following a bad incident with Absinthe but I'm going to give it a go!
Freya x

Kathryn said...

I don't like Absinthe either... no bad experiences, but still. I don't like aniseed actually, but I love fennel - go figure??

You would change your mind if you saw tonight's dinner: celeriac mash, Barnsley chops and creamy butternut squash!!!! Hardly a dieter's dream dinner (!).

Ilana said...

Yeah Jamie DOES have a thing with fennel. After watching his Italian special it looked like he said fennel just as much, if not more, than he said another 'F' word. Hmmn.

I can't stand fennel, I'm sorry. Can't abide by licorice stuff. But, your meal does look fantastic. I need to eat more fish!