Chilean Sea Bass may be trendy, but it’s not for me. It’s in danger of becoming extinct and frankly, there are too many great choices out there to make this variety even mildly appealing. Striped bass is my pick. It is a beautiful fish, with silvery mosaic skin and a mild, tender flesh. I check the incredibly informative Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch often, and I always get the green light on Striped Bass. This is my go-to source for current information regarding sustainable seafood and can be accessed by clicking the above link, or downloading the app for your iPhone. Genius! I will soon post an extensive post on how this information has changed the way I shop and eat, but for now, let’s get to the tasty part…
I give striped bass a simple preparation with a medium-high pan sear to crisp up that gorgeous skin, a quick flip and a finish in a high heat oven. As long as you buy the best quality fish you can afford and don’t overcook it, you will not be disappointed. The first part is easy, buy wild and from a reputable market if you can, but the overcooking fish is an epidemic that most of us become a part of all too easily. I learned in culinary school to ignore a lot of the things I was being told: Salt is not bad for you. Pork should be served slightly pink, and when fish flakes completely with a fork, it is not done, it is overcooked. Cook white fish until it is just cooked through and just starts to flake, not a minute more. The high oven temperature allows this to happen quickly, giving the fish less chance of drying out. The attached skin also provides added lubrication in the process.
I serve this fish here with an herbed-flecked sauce verte. Each region has its version of a green herb sauce: Africa has chermoula, Italy has pesto, Spain has salsa verde and the French have sauce verte. It is salty, bright, pungent and fresh and can be served with almost any fish, grilled chicken or steak. Throw it on roasted potatoes or swirl into scrambled eggs. It is a complex sauce that will wake up a multitude of dishes.
To serve, I make a bed of the tomatoes and draped the fish on top, accompanied by a drizzle of sauce verte on the side. You do not want to cover up this beautifully marbled skin with any sauce. This way, it looks a bit fashionable and there’s just something about stacking food on top of each other makes it look modern. I may not participate in consuming the last of our Chilean Sea Bass population, but there are plenty of other ways to be trendy.
PAN ROASTED STRIPED BASS WITH CHERRY TOMATOES AND SAUCE VERTE
YIELD: 1 ½ CUPS
1 ¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
¼ cup tarragon leaves, chopped
½ cup chives, chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon chopped anchovy
1/4 cup capers
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
In a blender or food processor, combine parsley, tarragon, chives, garlic, anchovy, capers and lemon juice. Pulse to puree. With the motor running, very slowly add the oil until it is thoroughly incorporated. Transfer to a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
4 (6 oz.) skinless skin-on striped bass fillets
1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for drizzling tomatoes
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Pat fish fillets dry and season with salt and pepper. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add canola oil. 30 seconds later, add fish skin side down, and cook without moving for about 3-4 minutes. When skin has crisped, turn fish over and transfer to a shallow, oiled baking dish. Add halved tomatoes to the pan. Drizzle tomatoes with oil, sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and immediately transfer to the oven. Roast until just cooked through, 5-7 minutes.
To serve: Put a small bed of roasted tomatoes in the center of the plate. Place one fillet on the tomatoes, skin side up. Spoon Sauce Verte in a half moon shape alongside the fish. Serve.
*My Two Cents: If halibut or grouper looks good at the market, swap it in. Although types of these fish are endangered, Pacific Halibut and Grouper from the Gulf of Mexico are great, sustainable choices. Become informed about where your seafood comes from and you will make more educated choices that will not only make you feel good, but will probably taste a lot better than the prepackaged stuff labeled with nothing more than a generic title and price. Swordfish is also great with a pungent dressing such as the sauce verte.
This is a great dish for company because the sauce verte can be made the day before and the fish and tomatoes cook in minutes.