Seared Cod with Fennel Ragout

Wow, is it really the end of September already? That means, Nathan and I are getting married in less than month — yikes! Panic time!

Ok, I exaggerate – we’re actually doing pretty good as far as planning goes, so there’s really no need to panic. But you’ll still have to pardon me and my very-likely leave of absence from blogging once we get even closer to the wedding date, and then definitely when we’re on our honeymoon. But we’re going to Spain, possibly one of the best places in the world for eating, so I hope to come back with lots of delicious stories and pictures.

In the meantime, even though I don’t have much extra time for flipping through my cookbooks and scouring my favorite blogs to hunt down new recipes, I have some very lovely friends who will do the work for me. This one comes to us by way of my good friend and former roommate Ms. Laura. I was contemplating a strategy for this head of fennel sitting in the fridge when all of a sudden, my IM window popped up with a message from Laura telling me she just made this awesome recipe from Epicurious. Now, if that’s not divine intervention, I don’t know what is.

The major change I made to the recipe is to scale it down to serve two and to skip the sun-dried tomatoes since I didn’t have any at home. Also, I bought my fish at an Asian market where, shall we say, labeling fishes by their English names is not their highest priority. So I just chose a firm-looking white fish and it worked well. Just avoid delicate or super-oily fishes, like salmon or mackerel. I cooked up some simple sauteed spinach to serve with this and it went great with the creamy ragout.

2 slices bacon, cut into chunks
olive oil
1 fennel bulb, stalks removed and sliced
salt and black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
2 tbsp chopped, drained sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil (optional)
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 pieces cod, scrod, or halibut fillet (about 1 inch thick)
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Cook bacon over medium heat, stirring, until a little bit crispy and a lot of the fat has been rendered out (about 6-8 min). Transfer bacon onto a paper-towel-lined plate.

Pour out most of the fat except for about 1 tbsp (careful!) and add in 1 tbsp of olive oil. Saute fennel with a good sprinkle of salt and pepper over medium heat until lightly browned, about 6-8 min.

Once fennel is slightly soft and a bit browned, add in broth, cream, tomatoes (if using), and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat, partially covered and stirring occasionally, to thicken the ragout. This will take about 20 min.

While fennel is cooking, heat another tbsp of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Season fish fillets with salt and pepper on both sides, then pan-fry in skillet. Depending on the thickness of your fish, you’ll need to adjust your cooking time. Start with 4 min each side and then check the thickness part of your fillet to see if it’s done or not. A knife should pass easily through the flesh when the fish is done and the flesh should be quite opaque.

Before serving, stir mustard and the reserved bacon into the fennel ragout. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle ragout onto plates and lay the fish on top.

(Makes two servings)