I have often said that recipes are mere guidelines. They’re ideas to help the creative juices flow – and tonight’s dinner definitely fills that bill.
The latest issue of Fine Cooking magazine came out a few days ago and it did not disappoint. It’s their 25th Anniversary issue with lots of fun recipes. One recipe that caught my eye right away was a whole fish stuffed with leeks and fennel.
You may have noticed that I cook a lot of leeks and fennel. They are two things I really do love – and besides tasting great, they’re reasonably good for you, as well. The recipe came from their TV program Movable Feast – an interesting show that travels around the world and deals with some fun and innovative foods and cooks.
I’m not sure what country the original recipe hails from, but it has a delicious mojo de ajo on top, so it’s most likely Mexico or Central America – on the other side of where that fool wants to build his wall.
What I knew I didn’t want to do was stuff a whole fish for two people, but the fennel sounded too good not to make – so I thought of just layering things on the plate. Layering things on a plate really worked.
First thing I did was make the Mojo de Ajo to let it meld while making everything else.
Mojo de Ajo
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced, preferably on a mandoline
- 1 cup mixed citrus segments – I used oranges and blood oranges
- 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 6 tbsp key lime juice
- 1 small hot pepper, minced
Put the oil and garlic in a small saucepan over medium heat, and cook, stirring, until the garlic just begins to turn golden on the edges, about a minute or two. Cool completely.
Stir in the citrus segments, juices, and minced pepper. Add salt to taste.
Next came the fennel and fish.
Cod with Leeks and Fennel
- 12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 small fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
- 1 small leek, white and light-green parts only, cut in half lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup cream cheese
- 2 tbsp milk
- 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
- pinch dill
- pinch tarragon
- salt & pepper
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Drizzle sliced tomatoes with olive oil, a pinch of oregano, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and salt & pepper. Arrange on an oven-proof pan and bake about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the fennel.
In a bit of butter and oil, sauté the onion until just translucent. Add the fennel and leeks and cook over medium heat until everything is wilted and cooked – but not browned.
Increase the heat and add the wine. Cook until most of the wine has evaporated.
Lower the heat and add the cream cheese. If necessary, add a few tablespoons of milk to thin. Keep warm.
Place the cod fillets on top of the cherry tomatoes and return to the oven for about 5 minutes or until the fish is cooked. It won’t take long.
Place the fennel on the plate, top with the tomatoes and then fish. Finish with the mojo de ajo.
This was one of those dishes where everything worked. The fennel had the most luscious creamy-lemony flavor and the mojo de ajo had sweetness and spice. The fish and the tomatoes paired perfectly with all of it. Lots of flavors and textures.
The fennel on its own was outstanding. I could see it with any number of dishes – definitely any seafood, but even like a cole slaw on a pulled pork sandwich.
It’s only limited by your imagination…