Orange Fennel Sea Bream Recipe

Dorades à l'Orange et au Fenouil

[Orange Fennel Sea Bream]

We have officially elected the Poissonnerie Bleue on the rue des Martyrs as the best fishmonger in our area. Their wide selection of fish and shellfish is very fresh and reasonably priced, the staff is kind, and they are very generous with their advice and tips, which is a surefire way to win me over.

As I walked by the other day, I decided on a whim to get whole fishes to roast in the oven (is my life exciting or what?), and had a look at what was on display, on beds of crushed ice, amid the decorative seaweed and lemons. The dorades (which I have found are the equivalent of sea bream, of the porgy family) were on sale, and I bought two for a grand total of 7 euros. I asked the sales guy for some cooking tips, and then he gave the fish to another employee in the back of the store, who dexterously grated the scales off their skins, then emptied and cleaned the fishes, while I stared in fascination.

The fishmonger’s advice was to cook the dorades on a bed of lemon slices, but since I had lovely blood oranges on hand, I decided to use slices from both types of citrus. This was pretty quick to put together, and as it turned out, the orange, lemon, fennel and herbes de Provence combine into a very interesting and subtle flavoring, which compliments the delicate taste of the dorade without overpowering it. Baking is a great method to cook fish, allowing the flesh to cook evenly and stay moist.

As always when fish is served whole, there is a little wrestling involved, to separate the edible flesh from the bones and skin and unidentified goo, but we happen to enjoy that – it forces you to pace your eating (I tend to eat way too fast) and you end up with sticky fish juice on your fingers, which you can then happily lick off. But this means that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to serve it to kids, to picky or lazy eaters, or on a dinner occasion when spitting out fish bones and dirtying your fingers would be considered um… inappropriate. But adventurous eaters, aspiring mechanics and DIY enthusiasts will love it.

Dorades à l’Orange et au Fenouil

– 2 sea breams, whole, scales grated, emptied and cleaned
– an orange
– a lemon
– 2 large bulbs of fennel
– olive oil
– salt, pepper
– herbes de provence
– 6 small potatoes

Preheat the oven to 220°C (440°F). Lightly grease a baking dish large enough to hold the two fishes.

Wash and scrub the potatoes. Put them in a saucepan filled with cold salted water, bring to a boil, and let simmer over medium heat, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on their size. They are ready when a knife inserted into the center meets no resistance. Peel the potatoes when they’re cooked, and keep warm until ready to serve.

In the meantime, cut the orange and lemon in slices. Sprinkle salt, pepper and herbes de Provence into the cavity of each fish and put a slice of lemon in there too. Arrange the rest of the citrus slices at the bottom of the dish, and lay the fishes side by side on top of it.

Wash the fennel, cut off the stalks and chop in small pieces. Put the fennel in the dish around the fish. Sprinkle more salt, pepper and herbes de Provence and drizzle some olive oil on everything.

Cover the dish with foil, and put in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. After that time, you can take a peek, and check delicately that the fish flesh flakes easily. Serve immediately with the slices of lemon and orange, the fennel, and the potatoes.

Poissonnerie Bleue
5 rue des Martyrs
75009 Paris
01 48 78 05 05

  • Classic photo, Clotilde!

    Are dorades related to John Dory? I ask only because of the similar names.

  • sea bass! at least, i think they are after searching this site. or sea beam.

    am currently in the midst of arranging a farewell dinner which includes this fish.

  • Jay Francis

    Hello Clo,

    What oven temperature did the fish people recommend?

  • Jackie – At first I thought you were referring to a real person! :) The world of fish names is incredibly complex, but from what I’ve read, John Dory is a different fish, called “Saint Pierre” in French.

    Wena – I think sea bass (aka grouper) is yet another fish! Sea bass is “bar” in French.

    Jay – The fish guy said “four chaud” (hot oven)! :) It is rare to get exact oven temps from butchers/fishmongers/produce sellers, they seem not to want to make that kind of commitment! They’ll usually sort of make a waving hand gesture, frown in reflection, and say “oh bah vous voyez, einh, four chaud, mais enfin bon, euh, pas trop chaud quand même”. And this I translate into 220°C! :)

  • johanna

    hi clotilde, i’ve become an avid reader of your blog lately and not a day goes by without me checking out your latest posts – fantastic!
    Being in love with fish myself, I often prepare sea bass (bar) whole in the oven, using similar ingeredients – basically loads of fresh herbs, citrus fruits and some garlic (can’t do without it!). I have found that if you caramelise the lemons before adding them to the pan or foil, it intensifies the flavour of the fruits, whike taking some of the acidity away… just pan-fry the slices in a little olive oil until the brown a little and off you go!

  • Funny, I made whole sea bass with fennel, taragon, and lemon — on the same night! Delicious, and we have asparagus in the stores now so I served it with asparagus that was blanched and sauteed with sweet grape tomatoes. Yum!

  • Acc. to Temmerman & Chedorge, The A-Z of French Food (Editions Scribo, 1988), the dorade aka daurade is the sea bream or chrysophrys fish, from the Gulf of Gascony or the Mediterranean. (A very useful reference, I found mine at W H Smith on r Rivoli.)

  • Johanna – Thanks for the tip, I’ll try that next time!

    Meg – Oh you’re right asparagus season is just around the corner, yay!

    Michael – Thanks for the official confirmation – this book sounds like a cool reference…

  • Diana

    Fantastic Recipe! One part of the joys of being in France is the exceptional quality of sea food at our reach! It makes it very easy when attempting to recreate the great French Cuisine of the century! Thanks for the recipe!

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