This is one of my favorite preparations for firm white fish fillets, and it’s a breeze to prepare. The base is a super simple tomato-fennel broth – just a couple of cups of chopped fennel seasoned with salt and sautéed in a bit of olive oil, then dolled up with a splash of booze and some tomatoes. I usually use pastis or white vermouth, but last night I mixed it up a bit, adding an ounce of Lucid, which had a nice complexity. For the tomato component, I used a combination of the puree of fresh San Marzanos I made over the weekend along with a few crushed canned ones.
I’ve done versions of this dish using blackfish and black sea bass, but last night Mike brought home some super fresh wild striped bass, and I think it was the best yet – lightly flouring the skinless filets and giving them a quick fry in the cast iron skillet gave them a crisp, golden exterior and kept the flesh incredibly moist. I finished the broth with some chopped fennel fronds and the juice of half a lemon, then spooned it into bowls and topped it with the fish. I sprinkled a few more fennel fronds on top and finished each bowl with a bit of lemon zest.