John Dory Provençal
3 John Dory, about 11/2 to 13/4 pounds each (black bass or grouper can be substituted)
20 baby fennel
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
31/2 cups chicken stock
3 sprigs dried fennel
1 bunch basil (half left whole, half finely chopped)
3 tomatoes, sliced into rounds
1 lemon, thinly sliced
4 ounces olive-oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, halved
30 pitted olives
5 tablespoons butter
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Clean the fish without removing the head. Trim each fennel to just above the bulb, and wash. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil into a saucepan, add baby fennel, and season with a little salt and pepper. Add about half of the chicken stock, and cook gently until the stock has reduced.
Put the sprigs of dried fennel on a large oiled baking dish, and scatter the unchopped basil over them. Lay the tomato slices on top, alternating with slices of lemon. Season the John Dory inside and outside with salt and pepper, and place on the bed of vegetables. Pour the remaining chicken stock over the fish, and bake for about 15 minutes, basting with the pan juices regularly. Remove the fish and vegetables to a warm platter, and cover with foil. Strain the cooking juices from the pan, add to a saucepan, and reduce slightly. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the olives. Return the sauce to a boil; add the cooked fennel, butter, and a little olive oil. Add the remaining chopped basil.
Just before serving, delicately remove the fish's skin. Coat each fillet with the sauce, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
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