John Pleshette’s Steamed Cod with Fennel and Leeks

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Steamed Cod with Fennel and Leeks
Steamed Cod with Fennel and Leeks

Actor and foodie John Pleshette shares his with us every week.

Steamed Cod with Fennel and Leeks

Serves 4

2 lbs of cod
2 medium fennel bulbs
2 large leeks
1 cup of crème fraiche
Fresh chervil
Fresh chives
Plastic wrap

Trim leeks.  Slice lengthwise and rinse under running water to remove any grit.  Cut cross-wise into 1/2-inch pieces.
Peel the fennel bulbs of the tough outer skin.  Trim, leaving a couple of inches of the stem.  Slice lengthwise in half, then in quarters.  Cut cross-wise into 1/2-inch pieces.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan.  Add the leeks and the fennel.  Season with salt and white pepper.
Cook on a low flame, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent.  Don’t allow the leeks to brown.
Add a cup of crème fraiche.  Raise the heat and stir until it melts.  Turn off the heat and dot the surface with pea-sized pieces of butter.
Lay a foot-long piece of plastic wrap on your counter.  Place the fish in the center.  Season with salt and white pepper.  Add 2 tablespoons of butter.  Wrap up the fish and place it in a steamer.
Steam cod for about ten minutes or until it just flakes in the center when you prod it with your finger.
Heat the leeks and fennel.  Spoon onto a warm platter.  Unwrap the fish and lay it on top.  Scatter with chopped chervil and chives.

Cellarwise wine pairing
Break out your best Chablis for this dish with its ocean-fresh saline flavor offset by the anise richness of fennel and crème fraiche.  My top pick is the stunning ’00 la Chablisienne Chablis Grand Gru Grenouilles (France, $55) with its saltine cracker and, yes, fennel notes.  A more budget-conscious Chardonnay showing similar characteristics on a slenderer frame is the ’08 Dom Talmard Macon-Oizly (France, $13), or the ’07 Alois Lageder Chardonnay Sudtirol – Alto Adige (Italy, $15) with impressive bread dough and gravel.  A fresh, crisp alternative with snap pean and licorice flavors is the ’08 Jean Merieau Sauvignon Blanc Touraine “Les Hexagonales” (France, $12).