A dish known for its flavors from Provence, France. Lavender fields and medieval hilltop villages, in the southeastern region of Provence, stretches from the Rhône in the west to the Italian border.
This sauce with its colorful and bright flavors enhances the succulent taste of the grouper. Grouper should not be overcooked. The fish should be tender and using a fork should flake apart easily. I call this dish my Provençal-style Grouper. Your family and friends will definitely want to recreate this dish at home.
I’m using asparagus in this recipe, so I need to *blanch the asparagus first. I want them to remain vibrant green in color.
Prep Time: 15 minutes, (time includes blanching asparagus)
Total Cook Time: 1 hour
Yields: 4 servings
Equipment: 1 (12-inch) sauté pan, 1 (11 x 13-inch) casserole dish, colander spoon, tongs, large mixing bowl, chef’s knife, 1 (3-quart) saucepot
Directions For Blanching Asparagus:
First, rinse the asparagus stalks under cold water to remove any dirt or sand. Take one of the stalks, hold it towards the bottom third of the stalk gently bending it until it breaks. The bottom end that snapped off is the part of the asparagus that’s woody and very fibrous. The stalk breaks naturally where the tender part ends and the tough part begins.
In a 3-quart saucepot of salted boiling water (6 cups) add the asparagus. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Using a colander spoon or pair of tongs, immediately transfer the asparagus to an ice bath (a large bowl filled with ice water). Allow the asparagus spears to cool down completely. This process is what’s known as “the shocking method”. You’re stopping the cooking process and setting the asparagus’ vibrant green color. Drain well before cutting the spears on the bias into 2-inch pieces.
Ingredients For Fish:
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 (8-ounce) center-cut skinless grouper fillets, 2 pounds total
3 tablespoons olive oil, to be used on the fish fillets
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Ingredients For Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup fennel, (1 bulb), diced
1 cup of red bell pepper, diced
1 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons of garlic (3 cloves), minced
1 (28 ounce) can San Marzano tomatoes
2 tablespoons chicken broth, unsalted
2 tablespoons Pino Grigio (good dry white wine)
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves (reserve 1/4 cup for garnish)
1/4 cup fennel fronds for garnish
2 lemons sliced for garnish
Directions For Searing Grouper:
Let fish rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes (utilize this time for prep). Once fish reaches room temperature, prep the fish with olive oil, Kosher salt, and pepper.
Note: A (12-inch) cast-iron skillet or a (12-inch) non-stick saute pan works best for searing fish.
Preheat a large non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat. Carefully tilt pan off the heat to add the olive oil, swish the oil around in the pan, then back onto the heat. You may see the pan start smoking, that’s what you want. Next, carefully place the grouper fillets into the pan, presentation side down. Jiggle the pan immediately so fish does not stick. Do not touch the fillets for about 3 minutes. The fillets will release from the pan easily, once they’ve browned on that side. If you believe they’re ready to flip, using a spatula, pick up one corner of the filet and see if it’s not sticking and looks golden brown. Turn the fillets over and sear the other side for another 2 minutes, then remove from heat. Transfer the fillets to a plate until sauce is ready to be transferred to the casserole dish.
Directions For Sauce:
For the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan. Add the onions, fennel, bell peppers, and garlic. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are soft.
Place the tomatoes and their juices in a large bowl. Take a knife and slice through the tomatoes until they’re large bite-size pieces. Add the tomatoes to the sauce, then the chicken stock, white wine, salt, and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Add the chopped basil and caper and cook for 1 minute.
Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Transfer the sauce to a casserole dish. Lay the seared grouper fillets on top of the sauce, bake for about 15 minutes. To judge if your fish is fully cooked (because oven temperatures may vary and so might the thickness of the fillets), make a small cut with a paring knife to see if the flesh has turned from translucent to opaque. Finally, lay the lemon slices, reserved chopped basil, and fennel fronds over the top.
Place a puddle of the sauce onto a plate, place a filet on top, and garnish with basil, lemon, and fennel fronds. There you have it, my Provençal-style Grouper.
*Blanch: Blanching is a cooking process in which a food, usually a vegetable or fruit, is scalded in boiling water, removed after a brief, time, then finally plunged into iced water to stop the cooking process.