Grouper Poached in Olive Oil With Grape Leaves

IMG_6031-1One of the most popular and re-occurring ingredients in Greek cuisine has to be the grape leaf. They can be found grown all over Greece and many Greeks will go and pick their own and preserve them for future use throughout the year.

I was just a year ago that I went and picked and jarred some grape leaves. Yesterday I went back to my “spot” and picked some more grape leaves but it looks like I’ll have to go back again soon. It seems this year’s leaves are smaller. I’ll wait for Mother Nature to work her magic.IMG_6146-1

The use of grape leaves knows no bounds. Dolamades come with a meat and rice filling or strictly vegetarian with rice herbs and sometimes currants and fruits are added to shake things up. The possibilities for filling are endless – only limited by your imagination.

Last week I was contemplating whether to have swordfish souvlaki or a fish fillet poached in olive oil. I couldn’t decide…both options sounded delish. I referred to some on-line friends on Twitter and I took a poll…swordfish souvlaki or olive oil poached fish?IMG_6034-1

The poached fish won, and I’m delighted it did. One of my Twitter friends suggested I wrap the fish (she suggested halibut) in grape leaves and I was awed and pleasantly surprised by her suggestion.

The young lady’s name is Aristea and after a brief email exchange it turned out that she actually had wrapped the halibut in grape leaves & then baked it. Her approach was different from what I had envisioned but she provided the initial germ of inspiration. Thank YOU, Aristea!

In building this dish, I was inspired by the usual ingredients in Dolmades: grape leaves, rice and a sauce. Had it been winter, i would have whipped up an Avgolemono Sauce to accompany this dish. In Greece a couple of years ago, I was in the town square near where our summer home was and I witnessed a fisherman having a casserole of the “catch of the day” (sardines) bathing in an Avgolemono Sauce.

With the warm weather here, I had my site set on something lighter. I chose a fresh sauce that would complement the briny grape leaves, the delicate fish poached in quivering olive oil and a simple rice cake made with some leftover rice.

Last year I poached fish in olive oil for the first time (salmon) and this time a nice & thick grouper fillet was the closest (and freshest) fish I could find that would be comparable to halibut.

You can find jarred grape leaves at your nearest Greek or Middle-Eastern grocer and some supermarkets will now carry it in their ethnic or international aisles.

Choose a white, delicate tasting fish for this dish, say grouper, halibut or other white fish. Use a good olive oil, either extra-virgin (preferably) or regular would work fine here too. This recipe is a splurge using enough olive to cover the fish but rest assured the olive oil is not left with a fishy smell, the oil never gets to a high smoke point and it’s perfectly fine to use up for future cooking use.

The rice cakes are easy. I used leftover Arborio rice which I find to work best with it’s starchier content. If you have another rice on hand you want to use, go for it.

The final component of this dish is the sauce. I simply whizzed up some fresh Spring peas (frozen is fine) with some chives, mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, fresh dill, capers and finished off with some salt and pepper.

The only other thing you need to wrap this dish up (literally) are some blanched chives. If you don’t have chives, long scallions would work here or you could always bind your package with some butcher’s twine. Me? I like the chives.

Grouper Poached in Olive Oil With Grape Leaves
(for two)IMG_6028-1

2 grouper fillets
salt and pepper
preserved grape vine leaves
long, blanched chives
enough olive oil to cover the fish bundles

Rice Cakes
1 cup of cold rice (preferably Arborio)
1 egg, beaten
some grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
All-purpose flour for dredging
oil for frying

Green Pea & Caper SauceIMG_6035-1

1 cup of green peas (fresh or frozen)

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp. of fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. of finely chopped capers

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

salt and pepper to taste

  1. Take your preserved grape leaves out of the jar and briefly rinse them to remove excess salt. Remove any stems from the leaves and place them vein-side up on your work surface. Place two long stems of blanched chives on your work surface in cross (+) formation. Set one grape leaf where the chives intersect,  begin to lay enough grape leaves just overlapping each other in an outward circular pattern. The amount of grape leaves required to bundle your fillet depends on how large your leaves are and the size of the fish fillet.
  2. Lightly season your fillet with salt and pepper and place in the center of your grape leaves. Now carefully bring the the other edges of the grape leaves (with the chive stems) up towards the top of the fish fillet and wrap your bundle. Carefully tie your bundle up with the chive stems.
  3. Place a pot large enough to hold both bundles on your stove-top and add some olive oil (eyeball it). Gently heat up your olive oil (medium heat) to an approx. temperature of 250-300F. Your olive oil should be just “quivering”. Gently drop your bundles into the olive and poach for 20 minutes. (Keep an eye on your fish, ensure the oil only quivers).
  4. In the meantime, mix the rice, cheese, beaten egg, salt and pepper for your rice cakes and form into patties. Dredge lightly in flour and reserve. Add about 1/2 inch of cooking oil into a large skillet bring to about a temperature of 350-360F. Carefully place your rice cakes in the hot oil and fry for about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Place on a paper-towel covered plate and keep warm.
  5. Carefully remove your fish bundles and place on a paper-towel covered platter. Reserve.
  6. In the meantime, make your sauce. Be it fresh or frozen (thawed) peas, place in a small pot of salted boiling water for a couple of minutes. Drain and blanch in cold water (peas should be slightly warm). Add your peas into a food processor with a splash of water and puree. Now add the mustard, lemon juice and with the processor running, add a slow stream of olive oil (you may use the olive oil used to poach the fish). Add the capers, chives and dill and pulse a few times to blend in. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  7. Spoon some sauce onto the bottom of each plate. Place your poached grouper bundle (tied-side down) on top of the sauce. Place a rice cake on the side of the plate and garnish with chives and chopped fresh dill. Serve warm.

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© 2007-2009 Peter Minakis

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Peter Minakis

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56 Comments for “Grouper Poached in Olive Oil With Grape Leaves”

says:

Poaching fish in olive oil, now why didn’t I think of that ;) This is a beautiful dish. The fish looks perfectly moist and tender. Good idea for leftover rice, too!

says:

That is really a fine dish from the poaching to the rice cakes to the sauce — and all prettily wrapped and decorated. I would be very happy if that gift were served to me.

says:

I agree with Joan…I would love this as a “gift”…all beautifully wrapped and presented like that. A great concept Peter with the grape leaves being a very Greek touch.

says:

Wow… the fish inside looks so moist and tender! I’ve only ever had grape leaves in dolmades, but this is a great idea!

says:

Peter – I love everything about this..from the poached fish, to the grape leaves, to the leftover rice cakes, to the light sauce. Everything!

says:

this is very creative – i love the taste of grape leaves on meat (there’s a cretan dish of grape-leaf wrapped lamb roast), and i think it sounds great with fish too

says:

i almost get giddy at the sight of something wrapped in grape leaves. i think that’s one of the most inventive and clever tricks i’ve ever seen–kudos to the nation who initiated it. :)

says:

I’d say that is pretty much restaurant worthy. Great dish Peter; lovely idea with the grape leaves and beautiful presentation.

says:

Whether baked or poached, this combo of grape leaves and fleshy white fish seems perfect to me. I ahve to say, the olive oil poaching must kick things up a notch! It looks so luxurious!

says:

I really like this… I’ve never poached in olive oil before, since the thought gives the Spouse fits, but this doesn’t look heavy or oily at all. We grilled some fish in grape leaves a few weeks ago – that worked out pretty well, if I do say so.

says:

Wrapping the fish with grape leaves is one of my favorite as well, I always do grilling but should try to poach it next time.

says:

I have heard of oil poached fish and have been wanting to try it. This has given me the reassurance to do it!

says:

I’m loving everything about this dish, the tender, poached fish, the grape leaves, and that bright, pea and caper sauce. This is great stuff!

says:

I like the idea of using chives to wrap it up. Dang why did I never think of that one???????

I am a huge fan of oil poaching fish.

Nicely done!

says:

You never fail to amaze, Peter. Here we have an original dish, and yet it’s still undeniably Greek in every way!
I’m gonna have to snatch some grape leaves of my own when I see them so I can save on buying them canned :)

Rachel (S[d]OC)

says:

What a stunning presentation!

I read one sentence incorrectly at first. I thought you said that you “picked jarred grape leaves”. I thought, “Yeah, I can pick lots of jars of veggies at the supermarket.” What a great harvest I’d get! :-D

says:

This looks lovely, Peter — and scrumptious to boot. Might even persuade me to seek out some grape leaves…

says:

I would love to try this dish but I somehow have never really gotten used to the grape-leaves. I’ve only ever tried it with dolmades, so maybe it is time to try something else, or maybe I’ve just never had really good grapeleaves. I always find them a bit sour for my taste..

says:

The use of grape leaves here is like using banana leaves or taro leaves for some traditional food in Indonesia. My mother usually loved to cook salty fish wrapped in taro leaves and deep-fry them which then eaten warm with warm jasmine steamed rice and steamed vegies with hot chili sauce. I just found out your grape leaves brine to make dolmades and thanks once again to bring that post up to front, Peter. You made my day!