That fishy Renoir?

In Recipies on January 5, 2013 at 12:50 pm
"Poisson" Renoir (Image: Galarie Rienzo)

“Poisson” Renoir (Image: Galarie Rienzo)

Pierre-Auguste Renoir was, according to my recent readings, a man of large appetites. He was particularly fond of foods prepared Brittany style. Renoir was immensely fond of fish in general. When Paul Cézanne’s mother prepared Provençal-style blondade de morue (salt cod pâté) for Renoir, he famously said it was: ‘The food of the gods. One should eat of it and die.’

It’s likely that Renoir would have equally enjoyed today’s oven-roasted fish offering.

Marinated fillets of salmon are immensely popular with the Phyne Dyner. My roasted salmon fillets, marinated in oil and lemon juice, and flavored with garlic and cumin, are a favorite Shabbat offering. I am proud to say that I once served the dish to guests of the Consul General for the State of Israel. The salmon was a huge hit.

Today’s version is a salmon fillet marinated with rosemary and fennel seed Brittany-style. The original recipe accompanied an anthology of biographies of the Impressionist painters. I elected to use chardonnay, instead of the called-for lemon juice. I adore the flavor and aroma of fresh rosemary. It is a much milder dish than the one using garlic-cumin marinade, with the anise-like flavor of the fennel seed being a wonderful surprise alongside the woodsy flavors of bruised rosemary. Either preparation would be delightful. I also allowed the fish to rest in the marinade overnight to intensify the flavors.

I conceive this dish would also be equally good if prepared as a skillet dish using thinly sliced fennel bulb instead of including fennel seeds in the marinade. In summer, try it cooked over a wood-smoke grille. For a more intense anise (and Middle Eastern flair) flavor try deglazing the (stovetop) pan using a splash of arak just before the fish finishes cooking. If rosemary is your thing, omit the fennel seeds and revel in the piney flavors. And, before service, scatter a few toasted pine nuts over the fish after it is plated. Remember, Phyne Dyners are not bound by the limits of recipes.

One of the attractions of this recipe is that it can be easily adapted to the size of your table company. The recipe below is for one serving. Just increase the ingredients proportionally as the number of your dinner guests grows.

1 salmon fillet, approx. 6-oz

¼ C white wine (chardonnay) or lemon juice

¼ C extra virgin olive oil

1 6-inch sprig fresh rosemary (a bit more for garnish)

¼ tsp fennel seeds

1 medium clove garlic

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pat the fish dry and season both sides with a bit of salt and pepper.

Mix the wine (or lemon juice) and olive oil and set aside. Using a mortar and pestle, bruise the rosemary and fennel seed until fragrant. Then, crush in the garlic clove. Add the mixture to the oil-wine (or lemon juice) mix and stir. Lay the salmon fillet into the marinade and turn once to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours, turning once. The fish becomes more flavorful the longer it marinates, so feel free to complete the above steps before you move on to other kitchen chores.

Preheat your oven to 450F. Arrange the fish in a single layer in a roasting pan or on a raised edge baking sheet. Baste with a bit of marinade and then bake for 4 minutes. Turn the fish over and baste with a bit more marinade. Return to the oven for an additional 3 minutes, or until the salmon just begins to flake when forked. Do not over-cook. Salmon is best enjoyed when it is somewhat undercooked and there is little danger of food-borne illness if you use good judgment in selecting fresh fish. When finished cooking, remove to warm plates, garnish with sprig-ettes of rosemary or fennel fronds. Serves well with wild rice or oven-roasted potatoes and carrots.


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