Roasted Marinated Sea Bass
My counter is ten inches wide. Ten.
There are plenty of parsnips longer than my counter. A robust daikon would put my counter to shame. I suppose that rock cornish game hens would fit alright. Lots of shrimp and two dozen snails could huddle together shell to shell. But am I to cook only mollusks and miniature chickens while I live in this gloriously cozy but frankly lilliputian apartment? I think not.
Two dear friends are coming for supper and I am cooking a fifteen-inch sea bass caught off the coast of Montauk, counter be damned! (I’ll do the chopping on my dining room table.) Also from the Union Square farmer’s market: some gorgeous purple-hued cooking turnips, onions, extortionately expensive (and delicious) pea shoots and purple radish sprouts. My fennel bulb from the local grocery is of questionable origin, but so be it. Who the hell am I to hold a fennel bulb’s pedigree against it in February in New York?
I consulted my much worn and loved copy of The River Café Cookbook and halved the recipe for Ruth Rogers’ and Rose Gray’s Roasted Marinated Sea Bass. I thought April Bloomfield’s dreamy “Creamy” Turnips would go wonderfully with the fresh fish, and they certainly did (recipe to come). A small salad of pea shoot and purple radish greens and our feast was complete…and very well received indeed.
1 No. 2-3 lb sea bass (scaled and cleaned but not filleted)
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 lemons: 1 sliced and 1 for juice
a few parsley stalks…and leaves for garnish
1 large fennel bulb, sliced (keep fronds for garnish)
1/3 a bottle of white wine (roughly)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375° F (190° C). Put half the fennel seeds, salt and pepper into the cavity of the bass. Heat some olive oil in a large pan and quickly sear for about 3-6 minutes on each side (if you have a grill, paint some olive oil onto the fish and grill it quickly instead).
Fill a roasting pan or baking dish with half the sliced fennel, onion, lemon, parsley and remaining seeds, then lay the fish on top and cover the fish with the rest of the sliced veg. Pour the olive oil, lemon juice and white wine over it all and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the flesh is firm (I used the excellent and extremely inexpensive 2010 Ardeche white Burgundy).
I plated the whole bass on a platter with the fennel and garnished with some fresh fennel fronds and parsley. Reduce the deliciously fennel-infused cooking liquid to make a sauce to spoon atop the fish on each plate.
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