Magazine article Sunset

The Secret Is Fennel

Magazine article Sunset

The Secret Is Fennel

Article excerpt

Wonderful things happen when it's teamed with fish

THE FRENCH AND Italians have long appreciated the refreshing impact of cool, mild, anise-flavor fennel on fish. Chef Robert Engel of Russian River Vineyards Restaurant in Forestville, California, is also a fan of this duo. His fish stew with fennel and delicate fennel sauce for fish reflect a Western orientation an an imaginative touch.

Fish and Fennel Stew

1 large (3 to 4 in. wide) head fennel with feathery green leaves

1 large (about 1/2 lb.) onion, chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 tablespoon olive or salad oil

6 medium-size (about 1 1/4 lb. total) Roma-type tomatoes cored and chopped

2 cups regular-strength chicken broth

1 bottle (8 oz.) clam juice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

1 1/2 pounds skinned and boned firm-texture light-fleshed fish, such as halibut swordfish, or sea bass, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

12 mussels, well scrubbed with beards pulled off (optional)

Trim coarse stems, bruises, and root end from fennel. Pull green leaves from stems, mince, and set aside.

Thinly slice fennel head and combine with onion, garlic, and oil in a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium-high heat. Stir often until vegetables are browned and onion tastes sweet, 15 to 20 minutes.

To pan, add tomatoes, broth, clam juice, wine, and cayenne. Bring to a boil ove high heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add fish and mussels. Cover and simmer just until fish is opaque but still moist-looking in center (cut to test) and mussels pop open, about 5 minutes. …

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