Thursday, June 26, 2008

To sea bass or not to sea bass? That is the question!

I'm trying to be eco-friendly guy here, especially when it comes to things I'm stuffing into my piehole. Michael Pollan said to stop sucking down products with corn syrup in 'em, they're gone. No factory raised, except for my twice-a-year Big Mac...I'm in. Organic, biodynamic, food raised to according to long lost Aztecan moon-phase planting rituals with a sprinkling of human sacrifice? If that's what it takes, fuck yes! But when it comes to fish, there's way too many mixed messages.

Take sea bass, which went into this amazingly delicious recipe below. According to my local New Season's Market fish monger, they don't carry it because of over-fishing, which I've read about. But then I go to Whole Foods here in green-crazy PDX and they have their "sustainably fished" sea bass. Not that Whole Paycheck is the last word in saving the oceans, but I REALLY wanted to make this recipe so I went for it...with a modicum of guilt. If anyone has the real word I'd love to hear it.

In any event, this recipe from epicurious, which I'm sure could be prepared with cod or halibut as well with an adjustment in cooking time, was all kinds of deliciousness. The idea of "en papillote", where the food is sealed in parchment paper (or in this case the easier to use, easier to clean up, and just as effective tin foil) to steam in its own juices and other flavoring agents, is brilliant simplicity. All the this case lemon, thyme, tomatoes, capers...get infused into the fish. Quick, easy, and way effective. Plus the sauce spooned on top of this was crazy good, and especially seasonal now that little cherry tomatoes are just showing up at farmer's markets. Plus it gave me yet another way to use lemons off of my beloved Meyer lemon tree, which after steaming under the fish you can eat peel and all. Both w and I loved this dish, and you know something this easy has got to be in the rotation!
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Sea Bass en papillote

From epicurious:"Traditional papillote takes time and requires origami-like folding. Here, we use foil to make a no-mess pouch; the fish becomes infused with the flavors of tomato, capers, garlic, and lemon."

Makes 4 servings.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 (6-oz) fillets black sea bass or striped bass (1/2 to 1 1/4 inches thick) with skin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
8 thin lemon slices (less than 3/4 inch thick; from 1 large lemon)
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons drained bottled capers

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 400°F. Line a large baking sheet with foil, then drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil.

Pat fish dry and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper. Arrange fillets, skin sides down, in 1 layer in center of foil on baking sheet and slide 2 lemon slices under each fillet. Arrange 2 thyme sprigs on top of each fillet.

sea bass just before being sauced

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened, about 1 minute. Stir in capers.

Spoon hot tomato mixture over fish, then cover with another sheet of foil, tenting it slightly over fish, and crimp edges together tightly to seal.

Just sauced, ready to be sealed up into steamy goodness

Bake until fish is just cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness of fish); check by removing from oven and carefully lifting up a corner of top sheet of foil, pulling up sides of bottom sheet to keep liquid from running out. If fish is not cooked through, reseal foil and continue to bake, checking every 3 minutes.

Transfer fillets with lemon slices to plates using a spatula (be careful not to tear foil underneath) and spoon tomatoes and juices over top. Serve immediately, discarding thyme before eating.


Cory said...

Fish talk:

I would say that Whole Foods is not the word on what's sustainably fished - and that New Seasons has a lot more integrity. Last week in fact, Greenpeace just released a report that documented the declining sea food populations and supermarket chains. (Whole Foods scored an overall 4 out of 10 points). Washington Post has an excellent article about the report:

One authoritative source is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program. From their west coast guide , the tasty Chilean sea bass is on the "avoid" list.

Sarah said...

I love the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program--not only does it discuss sustainability, it also addresses those quease-inducing questions that I have about mercury content and other pollutants.

Environmental anxieties aside, this is a beautiful recipe! It's the kind of fish dish that calls for a relaxing glass of wine, don't you think? Any recommendations?

bb said...

I appreciate your comments guys. The Monterey Bay list is a great resource. Everyone should check it out. BTW Sarah..."quease-inducing" is a great word!