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Published: Tuesday, 2/19/2002

Fennel Crusted Grouper with Vanilla Beurre Blanc

2 teaspoons fennel seed

1 teaspoon dill weed

1 teaspoon thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 pounds grouper fillets (or red snapper or tilapia)

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 tablespoons dry white wine

Vanilla Beurre Blanc (recipe follows)

In small skillet, toast fennel seeds over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes or until aromatic. Remove from skillet. Finely crush toasted seeds using a mortar and pestle, a spice mill, a clean coffee grinder, or a rolling pin. Blend with dill, thyme, salt, and pepper.

Rub spice mixture evenly on both sides of grouper fillets. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.

In large nonstick skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Add fillets; saute 4 to 5 minutes per side or until done and lightly browned. Add white wine to pan; cook 1 minute. Remove grouper to serving plate. Serve with Vanilla Beurre Blanc.

Yield: 6 servings

Vanilla Beurre Blanc

1 stick unsalted butter, cold and cut in tablespoons

2 large shallots, finely chopped

1 cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar, or white wine vinegar

4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper, optional

1/4 teaspoon salt

In a 2-quart saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add shallots; saute 5 minutes until soft. Add wine, vinegar, vanilla, red pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Gradually whisk in butter 1 tablespoon at a time. The butter must melt gradually to form a creamy sauce. If necessary, move pan off the heat to keep it from getting too hot. Continue whisking in the butter until well blended. If desired, strain through a fine sieve and hold warm until ready to serve with grouper.

Yield: 6 servings

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