Photo: Oxmoor House 
Hands-on Time
45 Mins
Total Time
1 Hour 20 Mins
Serves 8 (serving size: 6 ounces fish, 2 tablespoons sauce, and 1 tablespoon arugula)

It's generally recognized among serious cooks that cooking anything on the bone creates a moister, more flavorful result. This whole steamed fish is bombarded with an arsenal of brightness and pungency, as it's enveloped in everything from chopped herbs to minty-lemony steam. We make our soubise sans-cream, building body with fennel instead. The sauce alone will earn cheers for an encore.

How to Make It

Step 1

Ready a stacked-style bamboo steamer. You'll need two of the layers, one for steaming the onions and fennel soft, and another for the herbs and fish.

Step 2


Step 3

Trim the fish per step by step below.

Step 4

Transfer to a plate and place in refrigerator, uncovered, for a moment. Alternatively, you can put the fish in a baking dish and cover with plenty of ice to, you know, ready the mood.

Step 5


Step 6

Fill a Dutch oven (large enough to house your steamer) about two-thirds full with water. Throw in the mint and lemon slices.

Step 7

Bring to a raging boil, then taper to a steady, steamy boil.

Step 8

For the first bamboo steamer layer, lay down a bed of trimmed green onions as if to build a raft.

Step 9

Place the fish on top of the onions.

Step 10

In a small bowl, toss together the chopped tarragon, the parsley, the fennel fronds, and the thyme leaves.

Step 11

Sprinkle in an even layer on the top side of the fish.

Step 12

Sprinkle with the black pepper.

Step 13

Top the fish with another bamboo layer, and then add the shaved fennel bulb and the sweet onion to this top steamer.

Step 14

STEAM IT ALL! Cover the steamer stack, place over the simmering water, and steam for about 20 minutes before checking the fish. Depending on the size of the fish and the intensity of your steam, this can take anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes.

Step 15

Check the doneness of the onions and fennel. They should be soft after about 20 minutes of cooking time.

Step 16

When tender to the tooth, transfer to a blender and add the capers, oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and Tabasco. Blend until silky smooth.

Step 17

In the steamer layer that contained the onions and fennel, add the arugula, then cover and return the top steamer layer to the steamer stack.

Step 18

Steam 15 minutes, letting the arugula wilt while the fish is finding its way to completion. Turn off the heat.

Step 19


Step 20

Find your most majestic serving platter--one that has plenty of depth for sauce.

Step 21

Once the fish is cooked through, pour half of the fennel sauce onto the base of the platter.

Step 22

Layer the green onions over the sauce.

Step 23

Now the fish. Then, the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle with 3/8 teaspoon of the salt.

Step 24

Top with the arugula. Hit it with the final 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

Step 25

Laboriously remove the lemons from the hot water. Place them indiscriminately around, on, and about the fish.

Step 26

Use tablespoons and forks to serve the fish.

Step 27

Step by Step: Trimming a Whole Fish 1) Using a pair of kitchen scissors, trim off the dorsal and pelvic fins. 2) Holding the edge of the pectoral fins, trim as closely to the fish's body as possible. 3) Move the fish to a cutting board, and score at a sharp angle all the way to the backbone, every inch or so.

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