Monday, October 17, 2011

Roasted Barramundi with Fennel and Orange

When Clare and I recently visited my parents, we decided to prepare a meal for them.  We went to a local grocery store, which had a wide selection of seafood, including one fish that I had never seen in a store before ... Barramundi.  I have ordered barrimundi at restaurants; but, until recently, I have never cooked with this fish.  So, I bought some to use for a main course.

Barramundi -- which means "large scaled river fish" in the language of the Australian Aborigines --  is one of several fish that are part of the growing aquaculture industry.  Aquaculture refers to the farming of fish, either in tanks or enclosures. We all have had farmed fish for dinner at some point, because most Atlantic Salmon that you can find in grocery stores is farmed, as is most Tilapia.  There is a lot of debate over the pros and cons of aquaculture, especially with respect to the impact of fish farming on the environment and the potential health risks of eating fish farmed in certain ways.  This debate is probably best left for another day ... and another post.

My focus was taking the opportunity to cook with a new fish and prepare a great main course for everyone one.  Barramundi is a white, flaky fish with a texture that most resembles pollock or cod (at least in my opinion).  This type of fish presents a very good "canvas" for different flavors.  After quickly scrolling through some recipes, I decided upon a recipe that called for roasting the fish with fennel and orange.    Overall, this dish turned out very well and I think my parents were pleased with it.  

Adapted from Epicurious
Serves 2-4

1 1/2 pounds of barramundi
2 teaspoons of fennel seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
5 Valencia oranges
4 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
2 medium fennel fronds, trimmed, halved through core,
     sliced, plus a few fronds for garnish
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
1/2 cup of dry white wine

1.  Prepare the spices.  Toast fennel seeds in a heavy small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant and the seeds begin to brown. Using a spice grinder, coarsely grind  the fennel seeds with one and one-half teaspoons of coarse salt.

2.  Zest, cut and juice the oranges.  Finely grate or zest enough orange peel from one orange to measure one and one-half teaspoons.  Set aside the grated peel. Using a small sharp knife, cut off the peel and white pith from three oranges. Working over a bowl, cut between the membranes to release orange segments into bowl. Squeeze enough juice from remaining two oranges to measure one-half cup.

3.  Roast the fennel.  Position one of the oven racks in the top third and another rack in the bottom third of oven.  Preheat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush a large rimmed baking sheet with oil. Toss the sliced fennel with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil, one teaspoon of the fennel salt, and a half teaspoon of the orange peel in large bowl. Transfer  the fennel to the prepared sheet, spreading evenly. Roast the fennel on bottom rack until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.

4.  Marinate the fish.  Meanwhile, brush large a shallow oven-safe pan with oil. Mix two tablespoons of oil, one teaspoon of orange peel, and the garlic in small bowl.   If you are using a barramundi fillet with skin, place skin side down in pan and brush the top with orange-peel mixture. Sprinkle the fish with one teaspoon of  fennel salt.

5.  Roast the fish.  Stir fennel; arrange orange sections around. Transfer fennel to top rack of oven and place fish on bottom rack. Roast until fish is just opaque in center and fennel is tender, about thirteen minutes longer.

6.  Make the sauce.  Transfer fish to platter; tent with foil. Place a pan over two burners; heat over medium-high heat. Add shallot; stir until tender, about two minutes. Add wine and orange juice and boil until reduced to one-half cup, about 4 minutes. Whisk in remaining one tablespoon oil. Season sauce with one-half teaspoon fennel salt, adding more to taste if desired.

7.  Plate the dish.  Arrange fennel and oranges around fish on platter. Pour sauce over the fish and serve.


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