spicy tautog with olives, tomato, herbs; fennel, dill; cheeses


I didn’t start early enough to prepare the ‘tomato water’ which was a part of a recipe I had used for this wonderful fish last July. The other problem I had last night was that I didn’t want to turn on the oven, a step necessary for my second favorite treatment of tautog (blackfish), so I improvised.

I used the basics of Melissa Clark’s recipe, but left out the tomato water, instead I added some incredibly sweet and flavorful small, ripe cherry tomatoes (in several shades of both orange and red) I had picked up the same day.

The fish was really, really good. This new recipe will be my new first choice, at least until I need variety again.

The vegetable was serendipity and one of my favorites, for accompanying fish, meat, pasta – anything – also by itself, raw, as a terrific appetizer:  A beautiful bulb of fennel ended up on the counter last night, the gift of a friend.

  • two 6-ounce fillets of tautog, or blackfish, from Pura Vida Fisheries [prepared following a recipe by Melissa Clark published in the Times four years ago, substituting a mix of excellent cayenne pepper and a dulce paprika for Aleppo pepper], seasoned with salt, black pepper, and a few pinches of a mix of sweet Spanish paprika and Nigerian cayenne pepper, placed in a large heavy oval copper pan over a medium-low flame, a mix of a few Moroccan and Gaeta olives from Buon Italia, pitted and chopped, scattered around the fish, the fillets cooked for about 4 minutes, flipped and cooked for another 4 minutes, near the end of which time a couple handfuls of some awesome cherry tomatoes from Norwich Meadows Farm were tossed into the pan, stirred and allowed to begin to break down, the fish and the olives transferred to 2 plates, the tomatoes spooned around the fillets, and everything sprinkled with NYC basil from Gotham Greens via Whole Foods and peppermint from Stokes Farm, both torn, topped with a drizzle of good olive oil and some flaky Maldon salt
  • a small fennel bulb and its tender stems, from From Fishkill Farms, via the CSA allotment of a colleague of Barry’s, bulb cut into wedges, stems cut into segments, sautéed in a large iron pan over medium high heat with 2 whole crushed garlic cloves from Willow Wisp Farm, a small amount of crushed dried Sicilian peperoncino from Buon Italia, and some Italian fennel seeds until the fresh fennel began to color, then, with the heat lowered and the pan covered, cooked for ten more minutes, occasionally stirring, seasoned, and a generous amount of chopped fennel fronds added at the end


There was a very small cheese course

  • the cheeses were ‘Coupole’, a goat cheese from Vermont Creamery, via Foragers Market, and 2 cheeses from Consider Bardwell Farm, ‘Slybro’ (also goat) and Rupert (cow); the grapes were ‘champagne’, from Caradonna Farms; the herbs were a bit of basil and mint leftover from the entrée