Black cod with caramelized fennel and Manila clams in tomato-fennel-saffron broth

Black cod is a very delicate, flaky fish and is one of my favorites. The tomato-fennel-saffron broth is something that I have been making for a long time, and it is one of the best accompaniments for any kind of sea food. This is a luxurious dish – perfect to impress at your dinner party.

serves: 8        difficulty: complex      prep time: 2 hrs


  • 2 whole pieces of black cod filet (i.e. the whole side of the fish) – about 2 lbs
  • 2 lbs Manila clams
  • 8 bulbs fennel
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 12 oz can tomatoes
  • 1 tbs fennel seeds
  • 8 tbs olive oil
  • 1 large pinch of Spanish saffron
  • 1 1/5  quarts of chicken stock
  • 2 tbs canola or vegetable oil


First prepare the broth. Dice 2 bulbs fennel in 1/2 inch dice.


Mince the garlic clove. Heat 3 tbs olive oil in a stock pot, and when the oil shimmers, add the garlic and fennel and sauté for 5 min.


Open the canned tomatoes, and puree them with a hand blender. If you don’t have a hand blender, you can use the tomatoes as is from the can. Add the tomatoes, saffron and fennel seeds to the stock pot, and continue sautéing for 2 min.

fullsizeoutput_38d8Then add the stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper. Then reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 30 min to allow the flavors to develop.

Let the broth cool, and when it is cool enough to handle, strain it through a sieve. Reserve the solids from the broth, and puree them in a blender.

Next prepare the caramelized fennel. Slice the fennel crosswise in thin slices (~ 1/8 inch). Heat 5 tbs olive oil in a sauté pan, and when the olive oil shimmer, add the sliced fennel.

fullsizeoutput_38cd Season with 1 tbs salt and ground pepper. Stirring frequently, sauté the fennel until it caramelizes well – and looks like caramelized onions. That can take 20-30 min. When the fennel has caramelized, take it off the heat, and stir in the pureed solids from the broth.

You can prepare the broth and caramelized fennel up to a day in advance.

Shortly before you serve, prepare the black cod and the clams.

Place 1 ladle of the tomato-fennel-saffron broth in a stock pot large enough to hold the clams. Add the cleaned clams. Cover with a lid and bring to a boil. It will take only about 2-3 min for the clams to open from the steam. Once all clams open, remove from the heat immediately.

Portion the black cod in 8 portions. Do not remove the skin – it crisps beautifully when fried. Season both sides with salt and pepper.  Heat the canola oil in a fry pan large enough to hold all the fish. When the oil shimmers, add the fish meat side down, skin side up. Black cod filet is thin, and cooks quickly. Fry for 2 1/2 min, and then flip skin side down. Continue frying for another 2 min. Remove the fish from the pan.

To plate, place a mount of the caramelized fennel in the center of the plate. Place the fish on top of the caramelized fennel. Ladle some broth around the fennel, and then ladle a few clams. Any juice from cooking the clams should also be ladled.



Serve with crusty bread, and pair with a nice white burgundy like Raveneau Chablis Grand Cru ‘Valmur’ 2013 (extremely expensive),  Vincent Dauvissat Les Clos Chablís Grand Cru 2013 (very expensive),   J. Moreau & Fils Chablis Grand Cru ‘Valmur’ 2016 (more affordable), Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey Chardonnay Bourgogne (even more affordable). 






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