Before Alexandra “Alex” Guarnaschelli became a Food Network celebrity chef, she was crowned as America’s Next Iron Chef on Iron Chef America in 2012. Now, aside from her successful shows on the Food Network, she is the world-renowned executive chef at both New York City’s Butter restaurant and The Darby restaurant.
At home, she has discovered a few ways to make healthy food a great match with wine, cooking assertive vegetables like fennel in wine to soften their flavors, for instance. But she’s clearly no pairing obsessive: “You don’t want to have so many rules that you don’t enjoy yourself,” said the celebrity chef.
The celebrity chef loves to serve raisin-stuffed braised fennel with a meaty white fish, like halibut, black bass or striped bass. According to her, raw fennel is one of wine’s great adversaries. When she cooks it, the flavor mellows and is great with a crisp white wine, like Marks & Spencer’s Bodega Castro Martin Albariño 2012. In an article from the M&S website, wine expert Chris Murphy said most white wines are best drank while youthful and fresh. Here is a recipe of Guarnaschelli’s roasted halibut with wine-braised fennel:
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 fennel bulbs, cut through the cores into 1-inch-thick wedges
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon dry white wine
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 1 small shallot, minced
- One 2 1/2-pound skinless halibut or striped bass fillet
- Preheat the oven to 450°. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the fennel wedges cut sides down, season with salt and black pepper and sprinkle with the crushed red pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat until the fennel is browned, about 12 minutes, turning the wedges halfway through. Add 1 cup of the wine and the water, bay leaves and raisins then simmer over low heat, turning the wedges a few times, until most of the wine has evaporated and the fennel is tender, about 15 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and season the fennel with salt and black pepper.
- Meanwhile, spread the minced shallot in the shape of the fish fillet on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of wine. Season the skinned side of the fillet with salt and black pepper and set it down on the minced shallot. Rub the top of the fish with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the halibut on the top shelf of the oven for about 12 minutes, until it is barely opaque in the center.
- Transfer the halibut, with its cooking juices, to a platter, spoon the braised fennel alongside and serve.