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Risotto with Sea Bass and Fennel

Risotto with Sea Bass and Fennel
Fennel, known as finocchio in Italian, is a versatile bulb available from late autumn until early spring. Its flavor is sweet and faintly reminiscent of anise or licorice. Fennel is excellent sliced thin and served raw in salads, roasted alongside meats or slowly braised in liquid, as in this recipe. Trim off the stalks and reserve the feathery fronds to use as a garnish.

Ingredients:

  • 7 to 8 cups fish stock
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4 lb. sea bass fillet, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 3 cups Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 1 cup dry white wine, at room temperature
  • 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced,
      fronds reserved for garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the stock to a gentle simmer and maintain over low heat.

In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbs. of the butter with the olive oil. Add the onion, celery and garlic and sauté until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the sea bass and sauté until firm and opaque, 4 to 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sea bass mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Add the rice to the same pan and stir until each grain is well coated with oil and translucent with a white dot in the center, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it is completely absorbed.

Stir in the fennel slices. Add the simmering stock a ladleful at a time, stirring frequently after each addition. Wait until the stock is almost completely absorbed (but the rice is never dry on top) before adding the next ladleful. Reserve 1/4 cup stock to add at the end.

When the rice is tender to the bite but slightly firm in the center and looks creamy, after about 20 minutes, gently stir in the sea bass mixture, the reserved 1/4 cup stock and the remaining 1 Tbs. butter. Cook to heat through, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and spoon into warmed shallow bowls. Garnish with fennel fronds and serve immediately. Serves 6.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Risotto, by Pamela Sheldon Johns (Simon & Schuster, 2002).