Dinner Challenge: waste not!

December 9, 2008


Menu: Whole roasted Branzino with fennel 3-ways and broccoli rabe

I shopped for the main ingredients:

  • Whole Branzino, cleaned, about 1 1/4#
  • Whole head fennel
  • Bunch broccoli rabe

And found in the fridge/pantry:

  • lemon
  • orange
  • garlic
  • jar of green olives
  • white wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil

My challenge was to cut way down on the waste. I don’t compost, so looking to eat all parts here, if possible! I used the fennel in several capacities. I stuffed the fish cavity with the fronds, and chopped the remaining for the fennel salad. The stalks became a roasting “rack” for the fish. Then, I very thinly sliced the bulb for the salad.

The whole lemon was sliced, stuffed into the fish’s cavity & placed atop. The orange was segmented for the fennel salad and the remaining membrane squeezed for a citrus vinaigrette. Two garlic cloves were sliced and used to stuff the fish’s cavity & saute with the broccoli rabe.

Post-roasting, the fennel “rack” can be diced and tossed with the sauteed broccoli rabe, and the crisped lemon slices can be used as garnish.

To prepare the meal:

  1. Preheat oven to 425. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan. Rinse and dry the fish.
  2. Pull the fronds off  the fennel and reserve. Cut the stalks from the bulb. Place the largest stalks on the sheet pan in a row, spaced a few inches apart, as in the photo above.
  3. Season the fish skin and cavity with 1 tsp salt and a few cranks of the pepper mill. Rub all over with olive oil. Stuff the cavity with sliced garlic, sliced lemons and fennel fronds. Transfer fish to fennel “rack” on sheet pan.
  4. Roast in oven for about 25 minutes.
  5. While fish cooks, thinly slice the fennel bulb and place in a medium mixing bowl. To this add orange segments, chopped fennel fronds & sliced olives. Squeeze the remaining orange membrane over the bowl, add a splash of vinegar and a few glugs of olive oil. Season with salt & pepper to taste.
  6. When the fish is ready, fillet and serve with fennel salad*.  Add some baby arugula or salad greens to the remaining vinaigrette in the bowl, toss, and serve alongside.

*I had to refresh my fish-filleting skills with a little internet tutorial. Even then, it was learn as you go. The key is to use a dull butter knife to gently scrape  the fish’s skin from backbone forward. Next, maneuver the knife under the fillet & on top of the bones to remove. If the fillet comes off in 2-3 pieces, so be it! Just check for bones. The fun part is then pulling the entire fish skeleton & head off of the roasting pan to reveal the remaining fillet. It is a Heathcliff moment!


One Response to “Dinner Challenge: waste not!”

  1. The Other L & M Says:

    Wow now I feel guilty about throwing away stalks and fronds! Good job utilizing every part of the plant (and fennel is a tough one).

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