Grappa, an Italian spirit, is made from grape pomace (the skins, seeds and stems left over from winemaking). Its slight earthiness and high alcohol make it perfect for curing fish, as in David Page's meaty striped bass fillets here, delicately scented with fennel.
Cooking With Grapes
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
Fennel fronds from 1 fennel bulb
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
One 2-pound striped bass fillet, with skin
1 cup grappa
Toasted baguette slices, extra-virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt, for serving
How to Make It
In a small skillet, toast the fennel seeds over moderate heat until fragrant, about 1 minute. Let cool.
On a rimmed baking sheet, spread the onion slices in the same shape as the fish fillet. Top the onions with most of the fennel fronds, reserving a few for garnish. In a small bowl, mix the salt with the sugar and fennel seeds and sprinkle over the fennel fronds. Set the fish on the curing mixture, skin side up, and pour the grappa over the fillet. Cover with plastic wrap. Set a baking sheet on top of the fish and weigh it down with heavy cans. Refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours.
Unwrap the fish. Drain and scrape off the curing mixture; transfer the fish to a cutting board, skin side down. Using a thin-bladed knife and starting at the tail end, thinly slice the fish on the diagonal. Avoid the darker flesh near the skin. Serve the slices on toasts drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled lightly with coarse sea salt and fennel fronds.
The cured fish fillet can be refrigerated for up to 2 days once the curing mixture is scraped off.
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