Spring Around “Il Forno”
As spring vegetables make their appearance here in California, I get excited about fennel. It is so versatile in the wood fired oven, with a lovely anise flavor that improves and makes more interesting a lot of dishes. It is also great on its own. (By the way, in ancient Greek fennel was called marathon, and some sources point to the fact that the area where the great battle of Marathon took place was once covered with fennel plants.) Here’s a great recipe using fennel, or finocchio, as it is called in Italy.
Black Cod and Fennel al Forno
- 1 lb Black Cod filet, cleaned, leave the skin on one side
- 1/2 fennel bulb, sliced thin
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 handful of fresh or dry rosemary
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
Mix the oil with the sliced fennel, olive oil and spices. Marinate the fish in this mix of oil and spices for 30 minutes. Two ways you can cook this dish in a hot wood fired oven:
- Once the fire you built is down to coals and embers, scoop these towards the front of your oven and place a freestanding grill over the coals. Wait 5 minutes until the grill is hot, then place the marinated cod on it with the skin side down. Fish will be done in about 10 minutes or so.
- If you don’t have a freestanding grill, use a baking dish. Push the coals and embers to the left or right side of the oven and then wait until the oven temperature registers around 500 degrees F. Place the dish at some distance from the embers. The fish will be done in 10-15 minutes.
Serve with a fresh endive and tomato salad.
By the way, you can enhance the food you cook in your wood-burning oven by using different kinds of woods. By now you know to use only hardwood that is nice and dry. This provides the highest BTU (British Termal Units, a way to measure the amount of heat) and also will keep your oven floor free from resins and other trouble.
So for cooking fish try using alder, maple, apricot, peach, plum, nectarine, almond because they bring out the best flavors in your seafood.