Saffron Butter-Poached Scorpion Fish with Israeli Couscous and Roasted Peppers

Recipe courtesy of Dave Miller

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This field challenge began with the final five contestants shipping off to sea, where they had to catch the fish that they would later prepare for three top food critics. Dave says, "I hadn't been fishing since high school, when I went with a couple of my buddies-and we never caught anything."

Finally, though, Dave caught a scorpion fish. "It's a fish that's better known in the Mediterranean," he says, "which is why I went with those flavors for my dish. The texture and flavor is very similar to mahi mahi."

After tasting Dave's fresh-caught dish, Gordon praised the amateur fisherman for his superior cooking skills and his near-perfect performance, remarking, "You raised the bar higher than we could have imagined."


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 shallots, minced
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 quart quality fish broth
  • 1 each roasted red and yellow bell peppers, peeled and diced
  • 2 pounds cleaned scorpion fish or mahi mahi fillets, rinsed, and cut into 2x3-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Fennel fronds, for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon smoked sea salt, for garnish


  1. Coat a pot with the oil and place over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add two-thirds of the shallots. Cook and stir for 2 minutes, or until soft. Add the couscous and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes, or until it browns slightly and smells nutty. Season with salt and pepper. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 8 minutes, or until the couscous is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Fold in the roasted peppers before serving. Keep warm.

  2. Season the fish all over with a generous amount of salt and pepper. In a skillet large enough to hold the fish pieces in a single layer, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the garlic, the remaining shallots, and saffron and cook until the butter becomes bright yellow.

  3. Lay the fish in the pan and cook slowly for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it begins to turn opaque. Spoon the butter over the fish to baste. Squeeze in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Gently poach the fish in the melted butter and lemon juice for 3 minutes longer, or until the garlic is fragrant and the fish is moist and just cooked through.

  4. Taste and add more salt and pepper and a few drops of lemon juice, if desired. Serve the fish on top of the couscous, drizzle the saffron butter on top and around the plate, and garnish with fennel fronds and a pinch of smoked sea salt.

Chef Ingredients:

Israeli Couscous

Also known as pearl couscous, Israeli couscous is significantly larger than its traditional granule cousin. It resembles a grain, like barley, but is considered pasta. Toasting lends the couscous a distinctive, nutty flavor and particularly satisfying mouth-feel, and it also seals in the starch, allowing the pearls to absorb liquid without falling apart.

Scorpion Fish

The scorpion fish is traditionally a very rustic, "poor man's" fish. It's called scorpion because of the poisonous spines that rise up along its dorsal fin, so exercise caution when handling this fish. While not fatal, the toxin can cause skin irritation. Mahi mahi or snapper makes a fine substitute.

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Saffron Butter-Poached Scorpion Fish with Israeli Couscous and Roasted Peppers