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 (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

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).