I enjoy foods that offer contrasts: it could be heat and spice combined with a cooling element or a tender morsel in the mouth along with a garnish to offer some crunch. I also like contrasts in flavours – some yin & yang and in this case the savory is balanced with ever so slight sweetness of sultana raisins.
Sultanas are golden raisins and I used to see them in the array of finger foods offered when my parents would throw huge Namedays for my father (on St. Nicholas Day) or I would see them when we visited relatives when they were entertaining for a Nameday. Let’s not worry too much about sultanas because the main ingredient here is fish and in this case, a grouper fillet.
Grouper is a large fish with medium firmness that holds up well to cooking and I’ve found it very forgiving when I grill, bake or pan-fry it. It has some fat content so it won’t dry out on you like a piece of tuna or salmon. Today I’m pan-frying the fish, seasoned with salt and pepper and a sprinkle of sweet paprika for more depth of flavour and then I dredge the fillets in cornmeal to give them a nice crispy crust.
This dish is simple and it uses some traditional Greek ingredients but in an untraditional combo. The backbone flavour here is diced celery with a final pop of flavour (with celery leaves at the end), pan-seared slices of lemon, smashed cloves of garlic, some white wine, stock and briny green olives. The sultanas (there they are again) balance these briny flavours and a sprinkle of capers and some bright rosemary needles to lift the flavours.
Use salt sparingly in this dish as the olives and capers do the heavy lifting here and you may only need some black pepper and more herbs according to your taste.
4 grouper fillets
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp. sweet paprika
approx. 1/2 cup cornmeal
4 slices of lemon
4-5 cloves of garlic, smashed
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 cup pitted green olives, rough chop
1/2 cup sultana raisins
1/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup hot vegetable/seafood stock
1/4 cup capers, rinsed
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/3 cup roughly chopped celery leaves
salt and pepper to taste
- Rinse your fish fillets and pat-dry then brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper and sprinkle paprika on both sides of the fish. Place the fillets in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Remove the fish from the fridge and lightly dredge in cornmeal and pre-heated a large skillet to medium-high heat. Add a couple of swirls of olive oil and when hot, add the fillets and brown on both sides (sauté in batches if necessary) and carefully transfer to a platter and reserve.
- Add some more oil into the pan, reduce heat to medium and add the lemon slices and sauté on both sides and place on top of your reserved fish fillets. Now add the diced celery, garlic, olives and sultanas and sweat for about 5 minutes then add the wine and stock and bring up to a simmer. Now gently place your fillets back in the skillet and add more liquid (enough to come halfway up the fillets).
- Slightly cover the pan and simmer for about 15 minutes then uncover and simmer for another 2-3 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Add the chopped celery leaves, capers, extra-virgin olive oil and some rosemary needles and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately with a side of rice pilaf and pair it with an Alpha Estate Sauvingon Blanc.
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