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Grilled Halibut with Potato-Fennel Puree

Bulb fennel, also known as Florentine fennel or sweet anise, comes into season in early summer and is available well into the autumn months. Pureed with potatoes, it makes a light alternative to traditional mashed potatoes. The puree can be prepared up to 30 minutes before serving, covered and reheated.

Ingredients:

  • 4 skinless halibut fillets, each about 6 oz. and 1 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh chervil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
  • Grated zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper

For the potato-fennel puree:

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 fennel bulbs, quartered, cored and finely diced
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half, heated
  • 2 Tbs. mayonnaise
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

Brush the halibut fillets with the olive oil to coat completely. In a small bowl, stir together the 1 Tbs. chervil, the fennel seeds, orange zest, salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture over the halibut fillets, distributing it evenly so that all sides are seasoned. Transfer the fillets to a shallow baking dish, cover and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. Bring to room temperature 15 minutes before grilling.

To make the potato-fennel puree, in a large pot over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the fennel and sauté until translucent and golden, about 15 minutes. Add the stock, potatoes and the 1 tsp. salt. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook until the potatoes are soft when pierced with a knife, about 30 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and fennel in a colander, return to the pot and immediately mash with a potato masher. Add the butter and slowly pour in the half-and-half while stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the mayonnaise and continue to stir until light and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a grill. Lightly oil the grill rack and position it about 6 inches from the heat source.

Grill the halibut fillets, turning once, until opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Garnish with chervil and serve immediately with the potato-fennel puree alongside. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining with the Seasons (Free Press, 2010).