This dish was inspired by a classic Italian Christmas Eve seafood stew. The traditional dish includes a variety of shellfish along with some fillets cooked in a tomato broth. It's wonderful, but a bit expensive for everyday eating. I've pared it down to something I can make and eat all the time: a simple fillet of cod oven-steamed in a broth made from sliced fennel, onions, white wine and tomato juice.
The tomato juice is my little secret. It is convenient and healthful, especially if you choose a low-sodium version, as I've done here. Better yet, it gives the broth a clean and bright taste. The dish is light, easy to make and done in 30 minutes.
- 2 teaspoons mild olive or vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, preferably sweet, cut into thin slices
- 1 bulb (8 ounces with stems attached) fennel, stems removed, fronds saved for garnish if desired, bulb cut in half lengthwise, then cut into thin slices
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 3/4 cup low-sodium tomato juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Two 4- to 6-ounce skinless cod fillets
- Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (at least 2 teaspoons)
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Heat the oil in an ovenproof 10-inch (medium) skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, fennel and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft but not browned, adjusting the heat as needed.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut a round of parchment paper or aluminum foil that will fit just inside your skillet or saute pan.
Add the wine to the skillet or saute pan; increase the heat to high and let it boil until the liquid is reduced by half. Reduce the heat to medium; add the tomato juice, sugar and pepper to taste. Heat until the broth just starts to boil.
Use the remaining 1/8 teaspoon of salt to season the fillets on both sides, then add to the broth, spooning the vegetable mixture and broth over the fillets. Cover the fish with the round of parchment or foil. Transfer to the oven and bake until the fish is done throughout, as follows: 10 minutes for a thin fillet (less than an inch), 12 to 16 minutes for a thicker piece.
Discard the parchment or foil. Transfer the fillets to individual deep plates or shallow bowls. Divide the vegetables and broth evenly between the plates. Sprinkle the fresh lemon zest over the fillets, then drizzle each portion with a teaspoon of the extra-virgin olive oil. Garnish with the fennel fronds, if desired, and serve immediately.
From columnist Stephanie Witt Sedgwick.
Tested by Stephanie Sedgwick.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.