Fish with Saffron Bechamel
Bechamel sauce is a popular indulgence in the Arabian Peninsula. In this version, saffron, a spice the Arabians originally imported from India, is added to the traditional French sauce, which is served over fresh fish from the Red Sea. Any fresh, firm-fleshed white fish -- like cod, orange roughy, bass, and rockfish -- works very well. The bechamel sauce can be made in advance, kept in the refrigerator, and poured over the fish just before baking.
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk, heated salt
, to taste
freshly ground pepper
, to taste
1 teaspoon good quality saffron
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
zest and juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2 pounds fresh white fish fillets
1 onion, sliced
1 cup grated Romano cheese
To make sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring until blended, for 1 minute, or until mixture is light golden. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, and saffron and stir. Raise the heat and simmer for a few minutes. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed. Set aside until ready to use. If making the sauce in advance, allow it to cool and store it overnight in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Combine 3 tablespoons of olive oil with lemon zest and juice, cinnamon, black pepper, and coriander in a large shallow baking dish. Place fish fillets in dish and turn to coat. Scatter onions on top and cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to marinate for 1 hour.
In the meantime, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
After fish has marinated for 1 hour, remove it from the refrigerator and top with saffron bechamel. Top with Romano cheese and bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes until bubbly and fish is cooked through.