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Pan-Roasted Black Bass with Cipollini, Fennel & Raisin Relish

To accompany black bass fillets, Justin Smillie makes this versatile sweet-and-sour relish. You can stuff it in whole fish or pair it with pork, chicken or other firm, white fish fillets.

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4

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  • 1/2 cup green or golden raisins (see Note)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 fennel bulbs—halved, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 cipollini onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped oregano
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • Four 6-ounce black bass fillets


  1. In a small bowl, cover the raisins with water and let stand until plumped, about 30 minutes. Drain the raisins, reserving 2 tablespoons of the soaking liquid.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the fennel, onions, garlic and a generous pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes. Add the raisins and oregano and cook for 30 seconds. Add the white balsamic vinegar and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the mint and the reserved raisin soaking liquid and season the relish with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil until shimmering. Pat the fish dry and season with salt and pepper. Add the fillets to the skillet, skin side down, and cook over high heat for 30 seconds, pressing the fish flat with a spatula. Reduce the heat to moderate and cook until the skin is well browned, about 5 minutes.
  4. Turn and cook until the fish is just white throughout, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer the fish to plates, skin side up, top with the relish and serve.

Make Ahead

The cipollini, fennel and raisin relish can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Green raisins, also called kishmish, come from Iran, Afghanistan or Pakistan. They are available at some Middle Eastern groceries and khanapakana.com.

Suggested Pairing

Crisp, citrusy white.

Photo © Christina Holmes

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