By Chef Chris Cosentino
4 - 6 ounce Alaska sablefish filets, skin off
1 large fennel bulb
2 teaspoons fennel fronds
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup red onion, julienned
1 pinch crushed chili flakes
1 cup red wine (if you would drink it, you can use it!)
28 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
1/2 cup fish stock
1 cup Castelvetrano olives, pitted
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon basil leaves, torn
Flake salt, to taste
Black pepper, ground coarse, to taste
1 cup polenta
5 cups water
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese, finely grated
Kosher salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
Chef's Note: Cacciatore is something we had a lot when I was growing up. The translation is hunter’s sauce, and every family has their own version. Classically my family would have made this with chicken thighs. This version with olives and fennel works very well with the richness of the Alaska sablefish. When you spoon the fish onto the polenta, the fish might fall apart but that’s all part of a perfectly cooked braised dish.
Step 1. Make the Polenta
In a pot add cold water and polenta together over medium-high heat, stir continuously with a whisk.
Once the water has been absorbed, lower the temperature and add the milk. Continue stirring about every 10 minutes until the grains are swollen, tender and taste cooked, about 30-45 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the butter and parmesan and continue stirring. Salt and pepper to taste.
Step 2. Prep the tomatoes and fennel
Blend the tomatoes and their juices in a blender and set aside.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil to blanch the fennel. Add a generous pinch of salt.
Remove the stem from the fennel bulb (set the fronds aside for garnish). Cut the fennel bulb into 12 wedges. Cut in half from the top, then looking at the core, cut each half into wedges as you would cut an orange.
Blanch the fennel wedges in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the water and set aside in a bowl.
Step 3. Make the Cacciatore
Season the skinless sablefish filets with salt and pepper on both sides.
Place a sauté pan over medium-high heat and drizzle 5 tablespoons olive oil in the pan.
Add the fennel wedges, garlic, and red onion to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes.
Add the chili flakes, then deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook until the liquid reduces by ¾.
Add the tomatoes and fish stock to the pan and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to medium.
Place the sablefish filets into the sauce, add the olives and herbs, and simmer gently for about 5 minutes.
Step 4. Plate and serve
Place ½ cup of polenta on the center of each plate and top with a filet.
Spoon the sauce over the fish, drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with a few small pieces of fennel fronds.