Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cocoa and Fennel Frond Crusted Chilean Sea Bass, Shiitake Mushrooms with Fennel Stalks, and Chocolate Drizzled Fennel Bulb

That has to be one of the longest food titles I've ever created. However, I needed something epic for my entry into She Simmers' Cooking Contest with Chef Curtis Duffy. I happened upon her blog by chance while searching for...well I don't even remember what I was searching for now, I was so entranced by her blog. The beautiful lighting in her photos and the unique recipes just drew me in immediately. I saw the contest she was running and decided to go for it with only a few days notice. I am to create a dish using chocolate with 85% cocoa solids, fish, mushrooms, and ALL parts of fennel. Yikes.

I love using fennel, but I have never used the stalks before. I find them very tough and with less flavor than the bulb or fronds, even though they can be a substitute for celery . The bulb is the part I've used most often in the kitchen. It has a slight licorice taste, and is great to use instead of onions in some dishes for a new taste. I think my favorite way to use the bulb is in potato soup. Fennel just adds a bit of sexiness to whatever you're cooking.

I decided I should focus on the required ingredients and not bring in a lot of "outsiders", like rice or pasta. And the ingredients should flow on the plate. Thus I came up with cocoa and fennel frond crusted Chilean Sea Bass, which would flow into the chocolate drizzled fennel bulb, thus melding into the shiitake mushrooms with fennel stalks. All the pieces of the dish compliment the others, without being hidden or overshadowed. The flavors are enhanced by each other to create a dish with symmetry and unique taste.

Once I had the pleasure of tasting my creation, I even impressed myself. The flavor and textures matched more than I had expected. The firm sea bass had a beautiful cocoa and fennel frond crunch. This matched the sweet taste of the fennel bulb cooked in olive oil and orange juice, topped with cayenne pepper chocolate. And finally, my personal favorite, the shiitake mushrooms and fennel stalks cooked in butter and soy sauce. The mild sweetness of the sea bass, fennel, and chocolate was a satisfying feast. The savory and umami flavors found in the shiitake mushrooms made my taste buds melt. And I loved how the orange juice brightened the flavors of the fennel bulb.

Although the name implies a complicated meal, it was simple and fast to cook. This would be a fantastic dish to impress someone with, as the praise you receive will far outweigh the time or money you spent.

Cocoa and Fennel Frond Crusted Chilean Sea Bass
Printable Recipe

1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp fennel fronds, finely chopped
1 tbsp cocoa
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
4 oz wild Chilean sea bass
1 tbsp coconut oil

In a small pan, toast the coriander and fennel frond for 15 seconds. Add to a small bowl, along with the cocoa, celery seed, nutmeg, and powdered ginger. Coat all sides of the sea bass in the cocoa mixture.

In a medium skillet, add the coconut oil and bring the temperature to medium high. Cook the sea bass for 1 min on all sides.

~Original by Brie.

Shiitake Mushrooms with Fennel Stalks
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, diced
1 small ginger piece, diced
4 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thickly
4 fennel stalks, peeled, cut to 3 inch pieces, and quartered
1/2 tbsp soy sauce

In a small skillet, melt the butter. Then add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 min.

Add the mushrooms and fennel stalks and cook for 10 min, stirring occasionally. Then add the soy sauce and cook for 2 min.

~Original by Brie.

Chocolate Drizzled Fennel Bulb
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp olive oil
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
1 tbsp orange juice

2 oz chocolate, Green & Black's 85% cocoa solids
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

In a small pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the fennel bulb and cook for 10 min, stirring occasionally.

Add the orange juice and cook for 1 min. Remove to a plate. In a small glass bowl, add the chocolate and heat in the microwave for 1 min. Add the cayenne pepper and stir well. Drizzle over the plated fennel bulb.

~Original by Brie.

I couldn't resist another photo - this dish is fantastic!


  1. As usual, beautifully written with a style that says this meal is delicious! Noregretsyet

  2. Well you managed the challenge quite successfully. Well done!

  3. Quite unusual! I did taste chocolate on duck breast dish that was really delicious, which is was not expecting to be, since chocolate is mainly used in desserts. Your fish looks beautifully coated and the tender fennel is simply delicious.

  4. I love your blog, but I almost hit delete when I saw this post because of the sea bass -- we're vegetarian -- but I'm so glad I didn't. Genius way to use fennel, which we have TONS of in the garden right now. Great job!

  5. Fabulous! I'm super impressed that you were able to tie all these ingredients together into one delicious dish! Looks like a winner to me!

  6. What an innovative and beautiful creation! I love the buttery texture of sea bass and I'm sure the crust would be a great flavor for it.

  7. What a splendid dish. Very thoughtful flavor combos, especially chocolate over fennel bulb.

  8. I'm very interested in the combo of cocoa and fennel,thanks for posting this.

  9. Very original creation, cocoa and fennel is a particular combination!

  10. I love the look of the bass after it's been cooked with the coco on it. It looks like the outside has a bit of crunch to it, kind of like a seared steak, yum!

  11. Wow thanks for this. Your blog helped me. My Mother-in-law gave us sea bass, and I just don't have any idea what to do with it. I'm searching in the internet and found your blog. Now I have.


  12. @Noregretsyet thank you! :)

    @Shirley i hope so, thanks!

    @Silvia yes, i find the darker chocolates have a much broader food spectrum than the milk chocolate. thank you!

    @Veggie Matter oh no! so glad you decided to take a look! i think you'll enjoy the fennel recipes. they're both delicious!

    @5 Star Foodie thank you, i hope so, too!

    @Cookin' yes, the sea bass was so tender, but firm enough to hand this type of crust and cooking style. thanks!

    @Cocina it was strange to drizzle chocolate over fennel bulb, but it worked even better than expected. thanks :)

    @Kathy you're welcome :)

    @Tania yes, i would have never paired the two on my own, but it works so well together!

    @Rochelle it does! i thought that, too! ;) the taste is definitely a juicy, flaky sea bass which works surprisingly well with the cocoa.

    @Christine you're welcome! i'm so pleased to see this recipe was a help! thanks so much for letting me know - i hope you all enjoy the recipe as much as i did! :)

  13. Congratulations to you! You've taken a crazy sounding challenge and totally come up with the goods. Looks fancypants too :D

  14. congratulations, this looks absolutley delicous! i love the fennell cocoa combination. well done!

  15. Chocolate drizzled fennel. Chocolate is one of the ingredients that I would love to use more often in savory dishes.

  16. Wow Amazing! You had me just with the title :) mouth watering.

  17. what an elegant and delicious meal!

  18. @Conor haha, thank you. i like it when i can pull of being fancy *pinky in air*

    @Cocina thank you! the cocoa and fennel went surprisingly well together.

    @penny yes, chocolate and savory are a great pair (although chocolate makes anything better really!)

    @Spicie ha, yes, the title is quite the mouthful! ;)

    @Simply thank you! :)

  19. New to me with cocoa but it sure looks delicious. Beautiful presentation.

  20. thanks, Mary! you should try the cocoa in a fish dish - it's a delicious combination!