Seabass on Spinach and Griddled Fennel with
a Pernod Crème Fraiche Sauce
recipe comes from Chef Jim Fisher who now runs
cooking holidays in the Dordogne.
you would like to know more about Jim and how he gained
his love of cooking why not have a look at his biography
find out more about the cooking holidays in France at
Jim's cooking school in the Dordogne you will need to
visit his web site <click
said about this recipe:
is a very expensive recipe. Someone paid me £5000
to cook it for them. That someone was Rick Stein. Well,
he didn't exactly pay me, but you have to admit it sounds
good. The occasion was, of course, a competition. A
competition to impress Rick Stein with an original fish
dish, no less.
Final was held at Rick's Seafood Restaurant in Cornwall.
At the time, I was in the desperate embrace of full-blown
pneumonia. So tanked up was I by heaven knows how many
drugs, potions, antibiotics and steroids that I wasn't
even nervous. In fact, I don't even know if I was actually
had lost all sense of taste and smell, so I could have
been cooking skunk in order to impress Grisly Adams!
I won first prize, though more by luck than judgement.
I suppose what saved me was all the practice I'd put
in prior to the event.
add insult to injury, all the contestants and journos
were treated to a meal with Rick at his restaurant,
but I couldn't taste any of it. Paying customers are
put on a three month waiting list and hand over vast
wads of dosh for a meal at the most famous seafood restaurant
in the British Isles, and here I was, on a freebee,
sitting next to the great man himself, eating Lobster
with Lime Butter Vinaigrette and it tasted like Ready
eventually recovered from the pneumonia, but was never
quite able to adjust to the injustice of that day (the
five grand helps, though).
is my favourite fish - small firm flakes of juicy flesh
that tastes of the sea. Try to get your fishmonger to
fillet the fish, and have it scaled really well because
you can then eat the skin, if you want. Oh, and the
fillets must be pin-boned, ie; all the little lateral
bones need pulling out with tweezers. You will also
need a good quality real fish stock for this. Packet
stuff won't do, but a good chicken stock will manage
at a push - it won't taste as good, though.
(14 fl oz / 2 cups) reduced fish stock
100ml (3 fl oz / half cup) good quality dry white
1 tbsp Noilly Prat
2 tbsp Pernod or Pastis, plus a little extra
200ml (7 fl oz / three quarter cup) crème fraiche
2 ripe plum tomatoes
1 tbsp fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 bulbs fennel
a football-sized bundle fresh spinach leaves, rinsed
and stalks removed
eight seabass fillets, prepared as above
freshly ground black pepper
the fish stock, dry white wine, Noilly Prat and Pernod
in a medium saucepan. Heat over a medium flame and
allow to reduce by a third.
this time, the alcohol will have been driven off,
so you can now whisk in the crème fraiche.
Reduce a little more.
the sauce - it should be deep, intense, highly aromatic
and have a good aniseed flavour. Add a dash more Pernod
- a mere thimble- full - to pump up the aniseed.
with sea salt - no pepper - then turn off the heat
and put a lid on to prevet a skin forming.
the tomato into quarters, remove the seeds and pulp,
then dice. Roughly chop the parsley.
the fennel of its base and fronds. Peel away and discard
the tough outer layers, then halve lengthwise. Cut
each half into eight segments, making sure each one
retains a little bit of the stalk - this will help
keep the layers together as the segments cook.
into a pan of rapidly boiling salted water, then simmer
for five minutes or so until tender, but still 'al
dente'. Drain, then season lightly with salt and
a cast iron ridged grill pan to a good smoking heat.
Brush with a little oil, then grill the fennel segments
on each side until nicely marked.
the rinsed and trimmed spinach leaves into a large
pan of boiling water for thirty seconds to wilt the
leaves. Strain, then refresh in plenty of cold water.
again, this time allowing all the water to drain from
a medium pan over a gentle heat, toss the spinach
with a little oil, some salt and some pepper.
the grill to it's maximum setting - give it a good
five minutes to really get good and hot.
oil a baking tray, then lay the seabass fillets in
it, skin-side up. Smear the skin with a little oil,
then season lightly with sea salt and freshly ground
the tray right up under the grill - about 5cm (2in)
away - and watch as the skin begins to bubble, brown
and crispen. Grill the fillets for about two minutes,
watching them like a hawk.
the tray from under the grill and test the fish for
'doneness' by pressing lighhtly with your finger.
They should be perfectly cooked when the flesh is
soft, but still has a little springiness. Alternatively
you can cut into one and have a look inside - it should
still be be slightly under-done. Set aside - it will
continue to cook while you assemble the dish.
the sauce, check the seasoning, then throw in the
diced tomato and chopped parsley.
the fennel and spinach on four warmed serving plates,
then top each with two fillets of seabass.
the sauce around and serve.
that someone, somewhere was willing to pay five thousand
pounds for this dish, so enjoy it!