When a fish is prepared a la mallorquina you know that it will be cooked with a variety of vegetables piled on top. Ideally, the fish is a whole and weighs at least five pounds. Grouper is a good choice, but so is red snapper, striped bass, John Dory, or any other lean, white fleshed fish. The crown of colorful vegetables not only looks pretty but also infuses the fish with sensational flavor.
If you cannot find a whole large fish to cook, you can buy steaks or fillets, calculating 1/2 pound per serving and cooking them for only about 20 minutes.
1 1/2 lemons
1 (5- to 6-pound) whole grouper, cleaned
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fennel leaves, plus 1 tablespoon chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
3 boiling potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds total weight, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet pimento or paprika
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 scallions, white part only, finely chopped
1 leek including tender green tops, cut into 1/4 inch-thick-slices
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed (reserve for another use) and finely chopped
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons fine dried bread crumbs
1 cup fish stock
Squeeze the juice from a lemon half into a bowl filled with water and set aside. Working with 1 artichoke at a time, peel off the tough, dark outer leaves. Cut off the stem and flush with the bottom, cut off the top two-thirds of the leaves, and quarter the artichoke lengthwise. Using a small, sharp knife or a spoon, remove and discard the fuzzy choke, then cut the quarters into small pieces and slip them into the lemon water. Repeat with the second artichoke.
Season the fish inside and outside with the salt and the pepper. Slice the remaining lemon crosswise into 4 slices, and insert the lemon slices and the fennel leaves into the cavity of the fish. Set aside.
Preheat the oven at 400ºF.
In a skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the potatoes, and fry, turning them occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until they are lightly browned on the outside but still undercooked inside. Remove from the heat and, using a slotted spoon, arrange the potatoes on the bottom of a large rimmed baking sheet. (Make sure the sides of the baking sheet are high enough to accommodate not only the fish and vegetables, but also the stock that is added later). Lay the fish on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle the pimento on top of the fish and drizzle with the wine.
Drain the artichokes and pat dry. In a bowl, combine the artichokes, scallions, leek, carrots, Swiss chard, spinach, and tomatoes and stir to mix well. Place the vegetables on top of the fish. Don't worry if some fall to sides of the fish. Sprinkle the parsley, the chopped fennel, pine nuts, and raisins on top and finally the bread crumbs.
Pour the fish stock evenly over the fish and vegetables, Bake for 2 hours, or until the fish is opaque near the backbone when tested with a knife tip and the vegetables are tender.
Remove from the oven and serve the fish and vegetables immediately directly from the pan. Even though this dish is a little messy to serve, it looks impressive and tastes delicious.