Roast Plaice with Fennel

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Illustrated on previous page

This is a very seasonal fish. From September to November large plaice are abundant and relatively cheap. Their flesh is very dense and steak-like. Don’t buy the little immature plaice available at other times of the year, both for reasons of sustainability and flavour.

Ingredients

  • 1 large whole plaice, skin on
  • Knob of butter
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 fennel bulbs, outer layer discarded and bulbs split
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Sprig of lemon thyme
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • Sprig of marjoram
  • 4 tablespoons miniature capers or chopped larger capers
  • Splash of Ricard

Method

Ask the fishmonger to split the plaice down the backbone and portion into 4 pieces each roughly 200 g.

Preheat the oven to about 150°C/gas 2.

Heat a non-stick ovenproof pan large enough to take the 4 pieces of fish and add a knob of butter and a splash of olive oil. Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper. When the butter has melted and started to sputter, add the fish, white skin down (the dark skin will peel off when cooked, while the white skin has a better, gelatinous flavour). To crisp the white side, keep the heat pretty high. When it is golden in colour, flip the pieces over and repeat on the dark side, basting as you do so.

When cooked, transfer to the preheated low oven to finish cooking through – this shouldn’t take more than 5–7 minutes. Remove from the oven but leave it on. Keep the fish covered in a warm place.

Drain and reserve all the fat and juices. Wipe the pan with some paper towel, place it back on the heat and add a splash of olive oil. When hot, add the pieces of fennel and colour these all over. Add the garlic, shredded herbs, capers, Ricard and some seasoning, together with the reserved juices and fat from the fish, and bake in the oven until the fennel is slightly soft but still with a bit of crunch, about 10 minutes.

Serve with the plaice and the juices poured over.

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