- Course: Main Course
- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Moderate
- Favorited: 40 Times
This is a great one-pot dish that is more a method than a recipe. I’ve kept the seasonings simple. For a heartier dish, you could substitute meat or poultry for the fish, use other vegetable such as potatoes, add garlic, and finish the sauce with red wine instead of white. For a spring feast, you could use fat asparagus in place of the artichokes and add English peas at the very end to cook briefly. If you want to stay away from butter, use olive oil to finish the sauce, although I do prefer the taste of butter here. And if you happen to have baby artichokes in your market, use them. Leave them whole and use three per person.
- 2 lemons
- 3 large artichoke hearts (see Note) , halved instead of quartered
- 16 baby-cut carrots
- 1 small fennel bulb, halved lengthwise, then each half cut into quarters (or use ½ large bulb)
- 4 halibut or sea bass steaks, about 6 ounces each
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2½ teaspoons herbes de Provence
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup dry white wine, fish or chicken stock , or canned low-salt chicken broth
- 1½ tablespoons finely chopped fennel leaves
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the juice into the salted water. Drop in the shells. Add the artichoke hearts, carrots, and fennel. Cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 12 minutes. Drain and spread on a baking sheet to cool.
Season the fish steaks on both sides with salt and pepper and then season each steak with ½ teaspoon of the herbs. Heat the olive oil in a heavy, ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the fish and sear for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the fish to a plate.
Replace the pan over medium-high heat and add the artichokes, carrots, and fennel. Season with salt and pepper and the remaining ¼ teaspoon herbes de Provence. Sauté until brown, about 3 minutes.
Arrange the fish on top of the vegetables and place the pan, uncovered, in the oven to finish cooking, about 10 minutes.
When cooked, remove the fish and vegetables to a warm platter and keep warm while you make the sauce. Place the sauté pan over medium-high heat and add the wine. Bring to a boil, stirring and scraping all the browned bits from the bottom and sides of the pan. Cook until reduced by about two-thirds (this is a brothy sauce).
Stir in the fennel leaves and the butter, if using. Taste for seasoning and pour over the fish. Serve immediately.
Do not make a habit of blanching all vegetables with lemon juice. It is necessary here to prevent the artichokes from darkening and adds a wonderful contrasting tang to fennel’s sweetness. Vegetables full of chlorophyll such as asparagus and green beans will immediately turn brown if in contact with lemon juice or vinegar, however. So, if you are planning a pretty green bean or asparagus salad, drizzle the dressing over the vegetables just before serving.
Preparing Artichoke Hearts
If you plan on doing a number of artichokes, it is a good idea to wear surgical gloves. The oils work into your hands and under nails and everything you touch afterward will taste bitter. Use stainless steel knives. Make sure you have a bowl of water ready into which you have squeezed the juice of 2 lemons. Drop the lemon rinds into the water as well. Prepare 1 artichoke at a time. As you work, dip it into the lemon water occasionally to prevent darkening. When the heart is fully trimmed, drop it immediately into the bowl. Preparing artichoke hearts correctly is one of the hardest things to teach people. But once you get the hang of it, it is very simple. My method results in more of the meat at the base of each leaf being left on the artichoke, so the heart ends up slightly larger than it would by other methods. But it is a small percentage, important in the restaurant industry, less so at home. Begin by pulling off the tiny leaves around the base and stem and discard. Trim the stem to within about an inch of the base. Then, instead of simply snapping off the larger leaves any which way, hold the artichoke stem down in your left hand (if you are right-handed). Hold your left thumb against the base of each as you grasp its top between your right thumb and forefinger. Pull down and the leaf will snap off above your left thumb. The fat flesh you would normally eat from a cooked leaf stays behind on the artichoke. Continue snapping until only pale yellow-green leaves remain. You will know when you have taken off enough of the leaves not just from the color, but from the feel as well. As you work toward the center of the artichoke, the leaves become more pliable and tender and you will suddenly discover that there is no effort needed to snap off the leaves. Cut off and discard the top third of the artichoke. Turn the artichoke so you can see the cut surface of the stem. You will notice a light-colored inner circle. Trim away all the stem to this circle, the tender core. Trim the artichoke bottom of any remaining dark green parts. Cut the artichoke lengthwise into quarters and cut out the choke with paring knife. At this point follow the chosen recipe.
© 1999 Michael Chiarello
Note from Cookstr's Editors
Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving and uses low-salt chicken broth, but does not include optional butter.