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Finding fault with fennel isn't an option when you taste this delicious dish

By Wolfgang Puck, Tribune Content Agency on

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) dry white wine or water

3 shallots, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Pernod or anisette

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

1/2 lemon, juiced

2 lemons, cut into halves or wedges, for garnish

Fresh Italian parsley sprigs

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C).

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With a sharp knife, cut an incision 1-inch (2.5-cm) deep all along the length of the fish on both sides of the backbone. Perpendicular to those incisions, cut incisions 1/2-inch (12-mm) deep into the flesh at 1-inch (2.5-cm) intervals. Season the fish all over, including the incisions and cavity, with salt and pepper. Put 4 fennel branches in the body cavity.

Spread 2 of the sliced fennel bulbs, plus the potatoes, onions and tomatoes, on a rimmed metal baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Drizzle generously with olive oil. Place the fish on top, body cavity down and backbone up, and drizzle generously with more olive oil. Pour half of the wine or water over the fish and vegetables.

Place the baking sheet on top of the stove over two burners set to medium-high heat. As soon as the liquid in the baking sheet starts to steam, carefully transfer the baking sheet to the preheated oven. Roast the fish, basting it occasionally with the juices from the pan, until its flesh easily separates from the bone when an incision is probed with the side of the basting spoon, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over medium-high heat, heat about 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the shallots and chopped fennel bulb, and saute, stirring frequently, until translucent but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Carefully add the Pernod, which may flare up as its alcohol burns, and then pour in the remaining white wine or water and stir. Scrape to deglaze the pan deposits. Simmer briskly until the liquid has reduced to about 1/4 cup (60 mL), about 10 minutes.

Whisking continuously, add the butter to the pan 1 or 2 pieces at a time until it melts, forming a thick, creamy sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the lemon juice. Pour the sauce through a fine strainer held over another saucepan, and press down on the solids with the back of a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid. Finely chop the fronds of the remaining fennel branch, stir all but 1 tablespoon into the sauce, and adjust the seasonings to taste. Keep warm over low heat.

Use a pair of large spatulas to transfer the fish to a serving platter. Arrange the roasted vegetables around the fish and drizzle with 1 or 2 spoonfuls of the sauce. Garnish with lemons and parsley, drizzle the fish with a little more olive oil, and serve, passing the sauce separately.



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