This recipe produces another "to die for" delicious dish. The ingredient amounts listed are a minimum for two adults. Scale up as necessary to feed more people or more people with large appetites. I included the other meal items we served with the fish in the directions below. Originally I watched an Internet video to learn how the chef prepared the dish … they were pimping basting oil sold by Wegman’s® supermarket. Then I got some additional information by looking up the ingredients as displayed on a bottle of Wegmans® basting oil, did a bit of thinking and then I created the basting oil at home. It was easy.
Part I: (Making the basting oil)
1 tbsp. of Dried Thyme (2 tbsp. fresh chopped thyme is better)
1 tbsp. of Dried Parsley (2 tbsp. fresh chopped parsley is better)
1 tbsp. of Rice vinegar
2 tbsp. of water
2 tbsp. of Fresh chopped rosemary
3 small garlic cloves, chopped fine
2 thin slices of fresh lemon
2 oz. of Soybean oil
1 1/2 oz. of Extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. of White pepper
¾ tsp. of Salt
Part II: (Initial sauté of the fish)
1 lb. of Sea Bass (skin removed, cut into two fillet pieces)
2 tbsp. of Olive oil
3 tbsp. of Flour
1 tbsp. of Corn Meal (optional)
½ tsp. of Pepper
½ tsp. of Salt
As indicated above, make the basting oil first. If you are using dried herbs, put them into a small dish and add the rice vinegar and water. Use a fork to mix everything to hydrate the dried herbs. If you use all fresh herbs, just put the water and vinegar in with the oils. Put both oils into a small saucepan and mix them. Add the rosemary, the garlic, the lemon slices, the hydrated (or fresh) herbs and the salt and pepper, then mix. Heat on medium until small bubbles indicate the water is starting to boil off. Place the pan in a 210ºF oven and heat the basting oil for one hour. This will develop the flavor.
We decided to serve the Sea Bass with baked sweet potato, so you can wrap each potato in aluminum foil and bake at 400ºF for 60 to 70 minutes. Yes, you will benefit from double wall ovens … so you don’t have to struggle with limited equipment.
Once the basting oil is done you can move on to other meal items. We served fresh broccoli steamed just enough to make it semi-tender (it retains the deep green color). It takes about 10 minutes to steam starting with a few ounces of cold water at the bottom of a steamer, on medium heat.
Now to the fish. Mix the flour, pepper and salt together. Sometimes I add a tablespoon of corn meal also for variation. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat. Cover the moist fish pieces with the flour mixture. Place them in the heated oil and sauté on each side for four minutes. They should be light to medium tan on each side.
Add the butter to the skillet and let it melt. Remove the basting oil from the oven and discard the lemon slices. Then mix the basting oil and ladle it (use a gravy ladle) onto each piece of fish. Ideally you will make some of the herbs stay on top of the fish. Turn the fish over and sauté while ladling basting oil and herbs onto the top side. The idea is to provide a small amount of basting oil and but lots of herbs to each side, not to soak the fish in an oil bath. After a minute or two, depending on the thickness of the fish, use a spatula to turn the fish pieces over and sauté for one to two minutes. Repeat this process for both sides of the fish. The herbs will become somewhat darkened during the final sauté … just don’t let the oil smoke … lower the heat to low if necessary.
At this point the fish is ready to serve. Place the pieces on a warmed platter (do you remember the 210ºF oven you used for the basting oil?) and ladle a very small amount of the basting oil over each piece.
Serve the meal quickly to keep the fish hot. The taste of the herbs and the taste, texture and moistness of the fish will knock your socks off, guaranteed! The sweet potato and broccoli side dishes are perfect complements, each served with butter.
Oh … lest I forget … Sea Bass from a first class seafood market is not cheap. We paid $13.99 per pound in 2009, (and $16.99 per pound in 2010! And the last I looked in 2012 it is $19 per pound!) and it was perfectly fresh (firm with no fish odor) and worth every cent. Removing the skin is difficult so have a good filleting knife or fine serrated blade kitchen knife to help you remove the skin without wasting fish. You can scrape/cut directly against the skin as you remove it without cutting through the skin … it is pretty tough. Do note that fresh sea bass should never smell fishy. Test that when buying the fish and do not buy it at all if it is not fresh. Does it make any sense at all to pay $16.99 per pound for smelly old sea bass? I make this point because Hadfield’s® seafood market in Wilmington, DE stung me once. Never again.
The story continues. It is now 2011 and I went to a high end supermarket that always has fresh, top quality seafood, to buy the sea bass. The seafood manager told me that the price for sea bass had increased to the point where she would have to charge me $20 per pound. The same was true for fresh swordfish. Now, consider that the folks who patronize that supermarket are pretty well heeled … that is to say they are well off financially. I would think they would accommodate inflation and continue to purchase products like the sea bass, even at $20 per pound. Was I ever wrong!
The seafood manager told me in no uncertain terms that she had simply stopped buying both the sea bass and the swordfish, and that she would refuse to buy either fish until the prices reduced to what they were before. This is most interesting as it happened in a place where I thought the customer base would be immune to inflation! So, I bought live lobsters instead, at prices that haven’t changed in over a year. Yes, I was disappointed, but I agreed with her logic. The way to fight inflation is to refuse to buy the products. That applies to all things other than those for which we have no choice, and for those the right strategy is to severely reduce the amount purchased.