I’ve cleaned more than my fair share of fish while cooking aboard sailing yachts, and I’d still rather have someone else do it. So Chia did…in record time (the proof is at the end of this article).
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
4 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon anise seed
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
Flake sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, can sub kosher salt
1 (2 pound) fresh fish, gutted, cleaned and dried
Fennel fronds for garnish, optional
In large sauté pan, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add fennel, lime juice, vinegar, anise seed, ginger and garlic. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring often until the fennel is cooked through (about 8-10 minutes). Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside while grilling fish.
Preheat a cleaned and oiled outdoor grill to high heat. Rub the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the fish and liberally salt and pepper. Place the fish on the hot grill and cook until the skin no longer sticks to the grill, about 10-12 minutes (BE PATIENT, do not force the fish to move….just wait). Turn over and cook on the other side for another 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and cover with foil for 10 minutes. Squeeze lemon over fish and serve whole topped with the fennel mixture. Garnish with fresh fennel fronds is desired.
Wine Pairing by Grapefriend:
Fennel is a weird food to pair with wine, like the friend you love but just don’t know what guy to set her up with. The strong anise flavor can overpower most wines, although when cooked that flavor mellows out making it easier to match up. Most people recommend pairing it with Sauvignon Blanc, and with the bright lime and ginger in this recipe a clean citrusy one from California would be delicious. But even more perfect would be a Vermentino, which comes primarily from Sardinia. I’m not a huge fan of most Italian whites, but the light citrus and minerality in this wine goes amazingly with fish and would be a good complement for the fennel too.
Libbie’s Food Styling Props: Wooden bowl sent to me from a carver in the Ozarks area of Arkansas. Table is an old weathered wooden table. Whole cooked fish is laying on an old panel to a kitchen cabinet door. Tongs are vintage silver from Habersham Antiques Market. Dressing is in a mid-century creamer.