Thursday, August 27, 2015

Sea Bass Three Ways

JP Seafood, our local fishmonger, usually has pacific white sea bass in the counter, a fish that is firm and flavorful.  But every now and then Joey brings in a real treat, Chilean sea bass, which is more expensive, but worth it with a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth flavor.  We seem to prepare something with the pacific sea bass every week or two, but switch to the Chilean when available.

Joey and I trade stories as I tell him about eating fish off white bread in Shenzhen, he tells me that he’s thinking of getting a Chilean sea bass and I should come back in a few days.  However, I end up at Berkeley Bowl to get duck legs and what do I see in the next counter?  Chilean sea bass.  I have to have it!

I have three go-to recipes for sea bass:  Mustard Roasted, Roasted with Fennel, Blood Orange, and Olives, and Foil-Baked with Spinach.  Any of them will work for either type of sea bass, or other white fish that I can generally find locally, such as snapper or halibut, which are both more lean than the sea bass, but work well with these recipes.

Mustard roasted is a favorite way to prepare the fish.  Combining creme fraiche, Dijon and whole-grain mustard, capers, and minced shallots, I make a thick sauce with which I completely cover the fish.  The thick fillets I usually get then take about 25-30 minutes to bake under this sauce and come out moist and tender.  Then, after putting the fillets on warm plates, I add a scoop of the sauce.

Tin foil provides another way to seal up and steam the sea bass.  I place each sea bass fillet on a mound of baby spinach in the center of a piece of tin foil, then sprinkle the fish with minced shallot and small pieces of butter.  As I close the tin foil, I add a little white wine on top of the fillet.  Once again, the large fillets bake for 25-30 minutes, then the tin foil packets are drained, the spinach and fish are plated, and the juices are drizzled on top.

I like to accompany these fish with new potatoes, boiled with garlic, black peppercorns and a bay leaf, then halved and stirred with butter, salt, and pepper.

For a more complete dish, roasted sea bass with fennel, blood oranges (not in season now, so I use regular oranges), and olives offer a lot of complementary tastes.  Thin-sliced fennel is cooked with garlic in olive oil, then mixed with wine, pieces of orange peel and orange juice.  The sea bass is then added to the pan, surrounded by slices of the blood (or regular) orange, olives, and bay leaves.  Roasted in the oven for the same 25-30 minutes, the fish is served with the fennel, oranges, and olives and drizzled with the sauce.  This dish pares well with some white rice.

I go with mustard roasted.

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