fennel fish (red snapper)

As social dining hosts the bob and ani show is gun-shy. We love to dine with people, especially in the relaxing atmosphere of a home, and we love to cook, but how to meet our own expectations of providing an elegant meal for the guests, when—let's face it—we're rank amateurs? As a result, we rarely put ourselves in the stress state of planning for an upcoming social dinner, but when we do, it always comes down to: what to do, what to do?

Fish is healthy. Red snapper we first met in an anniversary dinner in Aruba, and we liked it a lot. Since then we have seen this whole fish with its pinkish eyes looking at us from many fish counter displays, and our recipe antennas have had this subject on its hit list ever since. And since this was our year of the fennel, a match of the two was a high score in our main dish idea search. Which we left till right before the dinner with ani's former boss and his wife. Our starting point: Epicurious.com which immediately yielded a bunch of interesting fennel recipes, but after careful comparison shopping, the RED SNAPPER ROASTED WITH FENNEL AND BREADCRUMBS (the recipe titles are in caps there) from Bon Appetit (March 1991) won the contest. (We're subscribers since November 1982 and still have almost every issue, including that one!) Thank God for the internet. How else could we find anything in our back issues, in spite of the many Post-it's marking interesting looking recipes in our food mags over the past decade.

So we gave it the old college try, and accompanied it by SAUTEED FENNEL, RADICCHIO, AND PINE NUTS (Gourmet, March 1995) and steamed asparagus and Armenian rice, with Sona's pudding for dessert. And without abandoning modesty altogether in this assessment, dr bob was completely surprised, even almost shocked, by how good this fennel fish turned out to be. WOW!

And it is so easy. Was it a dream? Why haven't we done it again in the few months since? What are we waiting for...? Alas, life is not logical, but a series of random events, etc. Let's not get too philosophical here. But YOU can try this the first chance you get. And if you have any taste at all, you won't regret giving it a shot. Trust us on this one.


what they said: what we did:
2 bulbs fennel, chopped 1 1/2 bulbs fennel
6 large shallots/green onions, chopped 3 green onions
1/2 c parsley 1/4 c parsley
2 c fresh breadcrumbs 1 c fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 c olive oil 1/8 c olive oil
salt and pepper salt and pepper
3.5-4 lbs whole red snapper 2 lbs red snapper fillets
1/4 c dry white wine 1/4 c dry white wine
olive oil olive oil


  1. Pull off the tough outer layer of the fennel bulb if necessary, trim off the protruding stalks, cut off the hard bottom, and peel the layers apart, disassembling the bulb. Then food process it together with the cleaned green onions and parsley.
  2. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the breadcrumbs, salt and pepper to taste, and olive oil.
  3. Spread half the fennel mixture on the bottom of a baking dish (we used an 11x14in glass dish) and sprinkle with wine.
  4. Oil up the fish and salt and pepper it.
  5. Lay out the fish over fennel mixture in the baking dish and pour the rest over the top. Our fillets just fit nicely in the allotted space. We patted down the fennel mixture on top of the fish to make it stick.
  6. Bake at 450° for about 45 minutes.


  1. In the original recipe they used only a cup of the fennel, green onion, parsley mixture for the outside with the extra stuff, and put the rest inside the whole fish, after oil-salt-and-peppering inside and outside the fish.
  2. Our version feeds 4. Two couples or whatever. Adjust for your needs.
  3. Literally minutes after recording this recipe, browsing the then current Bon Appetit issue entirely on Provence (southwestern France), the trendy new name in food circles¹, remarkably several fennel fish combination recipes from the region were found (May 1999), including Red Snapper à la Niçoise with 4 fennel bulbs for 2 lbs of fillets! Looks like the dr bob cooking team was slightly ahead of the game on this one. [Coincidence, no doubt.]

¹The first restaurant dr bob ever took ms_ani to (before she was an academic ms_) even recently changed its name from Quissett to Provence. Pronounced sort of like "pro-vonts ", not like "Providence, RI" with a few letters missing.

fenlfsh.htm: 18-apr-1999 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]