Richard Olney, an American painter, cook, food writer, and editor spent most of his adult life in France and is best known for his books on French country cooking. Emphasizing the importance of simple and satisfying food, Olney mentored both Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower and thus was a major force behind the American Food Revolution and the birth of California Cuisine.
His recipe for Grilled Fish with Two Sauces is just one example of how simple techniques can transform any dish into an extraordinary dining experience.
Grilled Fish with Two Sauces
Sar á la Brasie, Tapenade et Tomates Confites
A 4-pound fish should be grilled 6-inches away from the heat for about 15 minutes on each side, turning two or three times. Don’t worry if the scales are charred. They protect the flesh from the heat, allowing the fish to steam in its own moisture. If you prefer, the tomato sauce can be prepared a day in advance, but the anchovy fillets should be added only at the last minute.
1 4-pound porgy, red snapper, etc. gutted, gills removed but unscaled
3 tbsp Olive oil
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
4 Garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
1 lb Tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into pieces, and salted in a colander for 1 hour
3 Salted anchovies, rinsed and filleted, or 6 fillets
½ tsp Fennel seeds, pounded to powder in a mortar
1. Prepare the bed of coals and put the fish to the grill.
2. In a wide heavy frying pan, warm 2 tablespoons olive oil, add the onions and garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until softened but uncolored. Uncover, raise the heat, add the tomatoes, and sauté, shaking the pan regularly and tossing the tomatoes, until their liquid has disappeared and they form a roughly textured sauce.
3. Put the remaining tablespoon of olive oil into a small pan. Lay in the anchovy fillets, and place over very low heat until they melt, falling apart when the pan is shaken. Taste the tomato sauce for salt, grind over pepper, add the powdered fennel and stir in the melted anchovies.
4. Serve the grilled fish accompanied by the two sauces. After lifting off and discarding the top surface of scales and skin, cut with a knife tip the length of the lateral line and lift the fillets from the bone with a spatula. Lift the bone and the head free from the fillets on the underside, separate them along the lateral line, push the fin bones aside, and lift away the fillets.