Grouper with Fennel en Papillote is a wonderfully elegant fish dish.
I made this dish when I was doing a lot of cooking from Le Cordon Bleu at Home.
I started Spinach Tiger to bring to life my modern approach to Italian and American cuisine using a bottle of olive oil per week, so why would I jump on the french train with all that butter?
Well, I’ve been to Paris and I loved the food. On my first day home, I made french onion soup and some french chicken dish and that was that. And, I always wished I knew a little more about french food. My paternal Pomone grandfather, comes from a town that borders France, so I must embrace this for my heritage sake, right?
And, then there is my memory of Audrey Hepburn as Sabrina (1954) who goes to Paris to study at the Cordon Bleu. Sabrina’s time away in Paris mastering french cuisine as the daughter of the chauffeur made it on my list of all things “Audrey Hepburn.”
I may not get to Paris to study at the Cordon Bleu, but I can have my own romantic adventure, cook the food, put on my little black dress, (yes I have one) sweep up my hair and invite you to a dinner party. Or, maybe just share it here with you.
Grouper with Fennel en Papillote has to be the easiest dish in the book. I generally do not cook en papillote, which means in paper, because I tend to grill my fish. A big mistake on my part.
We liked this dish so much, I’ve made it twice in the last week. The recipe stretched me personally because I had forgotten how good a little bit of butter can be on fish, and I had never braised fennel, which I eat a lot of, typically raw in salads, or in soups. And, I never thought of putting it with fish. So already I have experienced a new flavor idea.
Some people don’t enjoy fennel, thinking it’s too strong in licorice flavor. If this is you, then try it again, braised to nearly caramelized with a knob of butter. It’s delicate and delicious.
Cooking in parchment paper is beautiful. The fish was able to absorb all the flavoring of the fennel and the herbs (in this case basil and the fennel tops) and, although it was such a simple recipe, it had a layer of flavors that gave this dish a quiet elegance, (very Audrey). Of course, the clean-up is nice too.
The original recipe calls for snapper, but I was able to purchase wild grouper which served as a good substitute.
I (almost) caramelized my fennel in butter. It was still firm enough to take ten more minutes in the oven, but you can see in the picture above a golden coloring before it was put in the oven. I then layered the fish over the fennel, splashed with some dry white wine, blanketed with fresh basil leaves and added the fennel ferns. Wrapped up in parchment paper, the grouper cooked for about 20 minutes, but later in the week I used a thinner flounder and it was ready in ten.
The result: A beautiful, healthy, french dinner made in under 30 minutes. A true sexy, skinny Spinach Tiger meal!
Eat the fish and fennel at same time. Delicious combination.
- 2 each ¾ lb. Grouper, Flounder or Snapper
- 2 fennel bulbs, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- fresh basil leaves
- 4 tablespoons dry white wine
- Trim the fennel, wash, rinse and slice.
- Melt butter in saucepan with white wine. Add in fennel and braise for ten to twenty minutes or until soft. I usually cover the pan with a lid.
- Arrange parchment paper. Place fish over the fennel. and add in basil leaves. Wrap and bake from 10 to 20 minutes.
Recipe (adapted from Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cook)