fish stew with fennel + potatoes

4 slices thick-cut bacon, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon dried fennel seeds, crushed
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup white wine
4 cups homemade (or low-sodium) fish or vegetable stock
6 medium Yukon gold potatoes, diced
1 1/2 pounds fresh white fish, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley, for garnish
2 tablespoons minced fennel fronds, optional, for garnish

  1. In a Dutch oven, add bacon and cook over medium heat until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon fat from pot.
  2. Return pot to medium heat and add butter. Add onions and fennel and cook for another 5-10 minutes, until softened. Season with salt and pepper. Add garlic, fennel seeds, and bay leaf and cook for another 1 minute. Add flour and stir until incorporated into vegetables, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits on bottom of pan. Add stock and stir.
  3. Add potatoes and continue to cook until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Nestle in fish and add milk and continue to cook until fish is cooked through, about 10-12 minutes (depending on thickness of fish). Add more stock if necessary to make sure fish is covered as it cooks.
  4. Stir in 3/4 of reserved bacon and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaf. Ladle soup into serving bowls and garnish each with remaining bacon. Top each bowl with parsley and fennel fronds (if using), season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4-6.