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Wild Striped Bass with Fennel, Artichokes, and Bay Leaves

Source: Bottega Favorita: A Southern Chef's Love Affair with Italian Food by Frank Stitt
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  4 servings
Wild striped bass is the king of the Mediterranean. This beautiful fish is unsurpassed for its delicate texture and exquisite flavor. Here we opt for traditional accompaniments: fennel (both fresh and dried seeds), young artichokes, lots of crushed garlic, and bay leaves, moistened with fruity green olive oil.

Thin fish fillets often curl at the edges as they cook on the skin side. To prevent this, dry the fillets thoroughly and make several slits in the skin before placing the fish in the hot pan. Scraping the skin of the fillets with the back of a knife before searing them helps remove excess moisture and will make the skin extra crisp.
2 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut lengthwise into sixths
8 fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
4 baby artichokes, trimmed and quartered
8 garlic cloves, crushed lightly with skin on
¹/3 cup olive oil
Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
12 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine

Four 6- to 8-ounce skin-on striped bass fillets (or red snapper or halibut)
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
Flour for dredging
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon thyme leaves
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

To prepare the vegetables, toss the fennel, potatoes, artichokes, and garlic with the olive oil in a large roasting pan. Season assertively with sea salt and pepper, and add the fennel seeds and bay leaves. Spread the vegetables out and roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until slightly charred and just tender when pierced with a knife.

Set the pan over high heat, add the wine, and bring to a boil, scraping up all the browned bits. Boil until reduced to a syrupy glaze. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, and set aside, loosely covered to keep warm.

To cook the fish, pat the fillets dry and cut several diagonal slashes in the skin of each one. For extra-crisp skin, scrape the skin with the back of a knife and pat dry again (see headnote). Season the fillets with salt and white pepper.

Heat a skillet large enough to hold the fillets without crowding over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil to the hot pan. Quickly dredge each fillet in flour, shaking off the excess, and place skin side up in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes—the fish will release from the pan easily when it is ready to flip. Turn the fish, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, the butter, lemon juice, and thyme, and cook the fish for about 3 minutes more, until just opaque throughout. Baste the fish with the pan sauce as it finishes cooking.

Transfer the fish to warm plates and serve the vegetables alongside.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Artisan Publishing. All rights reserved.
Date Added: 03/18/2009
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