Rougets au fenouil, beurre blanc

We never tire of barbecued red mullet with a warm tomato vinaigrette (see the recipe for rougets aux feuilles de vigne). But this recipe, adapted from one at, makes a very pleasant change, especially if it’s not barbecue weather.

4 fillets of red mullet
300 g fennel
200 g celery
1 medium onion
1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbs pastis, pernod or similar

For the sauce:
2 tbs white wine vinegar
2 tbs dry white wine
6 tbs very finely chopped shallot
150 g cold butter, cut into dice
salt and pepper
fresh tarragon

It’s advisable to check over the fillets for any lingering bones and remove them with tweezers. Preheat the oven to 200C.

Finely slice the fennel, celery, and onion. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the vegetables, and saute over a high heat for about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the pastis, allow to bubble, remove from the heat, and place in a shallow gratin dish. Season the fish and lay it on top, skin side up. Bake for 6-8 minutes, till the fish is just cooked.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Bring the vinegar and wine to the boil in a non-reactive pan. Add the shallot and about a teaspoon of chopped tarragon, and simmer gently until the liquid is reduced to barely a tablespoon. Remove from the heat and whisk in two lumps of butter until dissolved. If you are confident of your abilities, you can then return the pan to a very low heat while you whisk in the rest of the butter, two pieces at a time. Otherwise do it off the heat and return the pan to the heat every now and then when the butter stops melting. The mixture mustn’t get too hot or it will separate. As you whisk in more butter, the sauce will thicken and become creamy. To finish, season with salt and pepper to taste, and add some more chopped tarragon. Serve the fish and vegetables with a little sauce poured over, and the rest in a sauce boat.

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