I love the flavor of fennel – raw, baked, grilled, braised, I can eat it pretty much any way. I know the flavor is too intense for some though. I find this recipe for roasting fennel with sweet leeks and garlic softens the strong anise flavor creating a caramelized vegetable treat, adding depth and richness to a simple roasted white fish like halibut, and keeping it incredibly healthy. I like a bit of freshness at the end, so I add a bit of fresh herbs including tarragon to the garnish. I like the tarragon as it ties all the flavors together, but can be omitted to minimize that anise flavor.
The flavors of the veggies become so rich that you can easily serve this with a crisp white wine, like a Spanish Albarino, a creamy Chardonnay to marry with the flavor like a Miner Napa Valley Chardonnay, or a young and fruit forward Pinot Noir, like Pali Sonoma County Pinot Noir.
Roasted Halibut with Garlic, Leeks and Fennel
2 medium fennel bulbs, cored and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, cut in half lengthwise and into 1/2 inch thick slices (wash well – leeks generally have lots of grit, so make sure they are very clean)
10 garlic cloves, cut in half
1 pound filet of halibut, skin removed
4 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup white wine
zest of 1 lemon + 3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons golden raisins
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons chopped fennel frawns
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stir the leeks, fennel and garlic together with 2 tablespoons oil, the white balsamic and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Add half of the lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, raisins and season with salt and pepper. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray and pour in veggies. Cover with foil and place in oven. Reduce heat to 375 and roast for about 15-20 minutes until veggies start to get tender. In the mean time place the halibut, skin side up, in a baking dish with the white wine and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Let marinate in the refrigerator while the veggies are roasting. After about 15 minutes pour off 3/4 of the liquid, flip the fish to have the skin side down, rub with 1 tablespoon olive oil, season with remaining red pepper flakes, lemon zest and salt and pepper. Place in the oven to roast on the top rack. Remove the foil from the veggies, stir and continue to roast uncovered. Roast both for about 15 minutes until the fish is flaky and slightly opaque, and veggies are caramelized. Stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and the fresh herbs. Spoon the veggies on to a serving platter, lay the fish on top and spoon the herb vinaigrette on top. Garnish with toasted pine nuts.