As a small child, I believed in two things; Santa Claus and the virtues of a simple grilled Loup de mer, or branzino as it is more commonly called in the US. Loup de mer is a Mediterranean sea bass with a delicate flesh and addictively delicious crunchy skin when grilled. Get your coals white hot, put dried fennel branches on top then the fish and let the licorice smoky flavors pleasantly permeate your fish, lending a feeling of being in Provence. There is no greater act of love than sharing a wonderful meal you cook with the people dear to you. Remember, good food can happen anywhere, this one is especially good cooked over an outdoor fire, preferably deep in woods, with loved ones and a few bottles of great wine.
My mother came to visit last year, and we had a great picnic in the woods surrounding Oregon’s Mount Hood. I found a small campsite along a river to provide the perfect backdrop to our picnic. Good food can happen anywhere and under any circumstance. If you are lucky to live in parts of the country like Northern California, where wild fennel grows rampant, simply cut it down and let dry fully in the sun. Get your coals white hot and put dried fennel branches on top. Licorice smoky flavors will pleasantly permeate your fish and lend a feeling of being in Provence. This dish might very well be the best thing I cook.
- 2 Loup de Mer
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 lemon, sliced thin
- sea salt and black pepper
- fruity French olive oil
- Get your coals white hot. Lay the Loup on a board in front of you. Put a thyme sprig and three slices of lemon in the cavity. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
- Drop the fish on the grill and let it cook. Fight the urge to prematurely turn it. Let it get good and crispy on one side then flip over. The best part is the crunchy skin. The second side cooks quickly.
- Put Loup on a plate and spoon a few tablespoons of artichoke broth over.
- Drizzle with fruity olive oil and the accompaniments on the side.
- Pour yourself a big glass of Pastis, put on some French music and let the spirit of Provence fill your soul.
- Put the tapenade into a rustic bowl and set on your table.
- Gently heat the artichokes barigoule and garnish with fresh cut basil.
You can find loup de mer, or branzino, in most cities across America. A simple trout would be a great substitution.