Pan-seared white fish with harissa-fennel and lemony capers makes for an elegant yet easy dinner. Serve over pasta, potatoes, or your favorite whole grain for an instant crowd-pleaser. Friends. This dish defines feel-good comfort food. It’s exactly what I want to be eating on a cold, wintry night with a glass of wine and some Michael Buble playing in the background. (Y’know, to drowned out the sound of my rocker neighbor playing his guitar and my dog whining next to me on the kitchen floor.)
BLISS, I TELL YOU.I find myself incorporating harissa in my condiment rotation a lot more often once the temperature starts dropping. This irresistibly smoky-spicy condiment can perk up everything from fried eggs to marinades and spreads. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the anise-y flavor of fennel, adding a bright kick of acid and nuanced depth.
Fennel is also my jam this time of year. Both the bulb and fronds have a signature licorice flavor that turns sweet and sultry when the bulb is caramelized. Paired with a briny kick from the capers, this dish is rich and hearty in all the right places.In terms of fish, I’d recommend using a mild variety like halibut or cod, both of which are meaty, flaky, and affordable. The fish picks up plenty of acid and flavor between the harissa, lemon, and sautéed fennel.
This recipe is aesthetically pleasing enough for entertaining, yet simple enough for any given weeknight. And it’s basically begging to be added to your dinner rotation this week.
- 1 lb. skinless, boneless firm white fish fillets (such as halibut or cod)
- ¾ tsp. kosher salt
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 fennel bulb, sliced thin or shaved on a mandoline, fronds reserved for garnishing
- ¼ cup finely chopped shallots
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1½ Tbsp. mild harissa paste
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided
- 1½ Tbsp. capers
- Season fish with ½ tsp. of the salt, and black pepper. Set aside.
- Heat 1 Tbsp. of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium. Add fennel, shallots, and ¼ tsp. of the salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, harissa, and 1 Tbsp. of the lemon juice; cook 1 minute, stirring often. Transfer to a bowl.
- Increase heat to medium-high and add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to pan. Cook fish until browned and crisp, 5-6 minutes. Turn; cook until just opaque in the center, 2-4 minutes more. Add reserved fennel mixture and capers mixture; toss to coat.
- Transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle remaining 1 Tbsp. lemon juice over top. Garnish with reserved fennel fronds.