Thursday, April 5, 2007

Chilean Sea Bass with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil Mousse

This dinner is a celebration of a Subaru Forester, named Lucas, our new car. We picked him up at the dealership yesterday and even took him on his first trip. As you might have guessed, the trip was food related -- we went to the Fresh Pond Market for meat and veggies, and our local fishmonger called "Fishmonger." Kind of like the horse in Princess Bride whose name was "Horse" (you have to read the book to learn about Horse since it wasn't in the movie).

The Fishmonger had all kinds of goodies yesterday including Chilean sea bass. I try not to gorge on this incredible fish (in fact, there isn't a single recipe for it on Beyond Salmon yet), but this was a special occasion and I couldn't resist. I decided to simply sear it in a hot pan and finish by roasting in the oven with cherry tomatoes. I don't think I've ever made a better 2 ingredient dish.

The rest of the dinner was assembled out of leftovers and kitchen mishaps. The batch of black-eyed peas that I cooked the day before got terribly mushy. I set the timer for 50 minutes and went to call the car insurance people, thinking that surely it won't take that long. How optimistic of me! They asked so many questions that it must have taken over an hour and my poor black-eyed peas got overcooked. What do you do if you overcook a pot of beans? You mash them! I drained and threw the whole batch in a food processor, added a little chopped garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Then buzzed it until smooth and voila -- you got yourself a lovely bean spread or a side dish if you heat it up in the oven and stir in a little butter.

The sauce was a mixture of pesto leftover from the Cinque Terre class this weekend and whipped cream. It turned into a fun basil sort of mousse -- kind of like an herb butter, but lighter and foamier in texture. After I plated the fish, I put a dollop of this stuff on top and it melted into a perfumy lava all over the fish.

So, here is to Lucas and many more good shopping trips!

Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Cherry Tomatoes and Basil Mousse

Fish substitutions: sable, halibut, striped bass (with skin), grouper, mahi

Serves 4

For the fish:
4 Chilean sea bass fillets without skin (6 oz each)
2 tsp olive oil
1-1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and pepper

For basil mousse:
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp basil pesto
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Dry the fillets well on paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper on all sides.
  3. Set a large oven-proof non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add olive oil (you might need a little more oil if you are not using a fatty fish like chilean sea bass or sable). Place the fish in the pan the nicer looking side down (if using striped bass or some fish with the skin, place it skin side down). Sear until nicely browned, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Flip the fish, spread the cherry tomatoes in the pan around the fish. Sprinkle them with a little salt and if not using a fatty fish, a little olive oil. Turn tomatoes to coat with pan juices, and set the pan in the middle of the oven to finish cooking the fish. The total cooking time (searing plus baking) will be around 8 minutes per inch of thickness. To test for doneness, separate the flakes in the thickest part and peek inside. The fish is done when a trace of translucency still remains in the center.
  5. While the fish is cooking, make basil mousse: Whip the cream by hand or with electric beater until foamy. Add the pesto and beat until soft peaks form (don't overbeat as the cream might separate). Season to taste with salt.
  6. Place the fish on 4 plates. Spoon tomatoes over fish and top with basil mousse.


Kalyn Denny said...

Hooray, a new car! I've been thinking about getting one too, but haven't quite convinced myself to have payments again. The sea bass looks spectacular.

Helen said...

Thanks Kalyn!

Anonymous said...

Ah this fish, my favorite! Wholefoods -- Newton -- carries it on a very regular basis btw Helen, if you wanted a shortcut.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious why you "try not to gorge on this incredible fish."

Anonymous said...

First, congrats on the new wheels, Helen!

Your inventive salvaging of the black-eyed peas sounds delicious--and amusingly like a south-of-the-Mason-Dixon Line hummus.

And the fish and cherry tomatoes? I totally have to try this. I'm guessing the tomatoes really only get warmed in the short time they're in the oven, not truly roasted, yes? But since they're so good raw, this sounds like a great treatment.

Helen said...

Hi Bea and Anonymous,

Thanks for the tip on Newton Whole Foods!

The reason I don't cook chilean sea bass much is that it's an endangered fish. I don't normally jump on the environmentalist bandwagon. According to some sites everything is endangered ;) But chilean sea bass was really in trouble recently because it takes so long to reproduce and because it became so incredibly popular about 10 years ago. It might be fine now -- I am not sure because I didn't have a chance to investigate this issue thoroughly.

In the recent years, Whole Foods went from carrying none of it to carrying it every single day and having a huge marketing splurge about it. I think neither extreme is good. I don't believe in abstaining from any food (at least any food obtained legally :), but I also don't believe in cooking a particular species too often no matter how good it is.


Helen said...

Hi Terry,

The tomatoes get soft and lightly browned, but they don't turn into a sauce or a mush. One perk of this preparation is that they turn sweet and very tomatoey (even when using out of season tomatoes).


Katerina said...

As usual it looks great Helen. You just earned major geek credit for the Princess Bride *book* reference. Awesome.

Helen said...

Hi Katerina,

Have you read the Princess Bride book too? It seems that most people don't realize there even was a book. It's a very rare case when both the book and the movie are fabulous.


Monika Korngut said...

I love "Princess Bride" as well. But I never read the book. Your dish sounds delicious, I never had Chilean Sea Bass, but now I will look for it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Helen - this looks divine! I am also a proud Forester owner (actually I have owned 2) and think they are great....espeically for your expanding family! Looking forward to the fish cooking class this Saturday. Stay well! Ellen

Anonymous said...

Wow, I totally love this blog. It’s so clean, professional looking, and I love the recipes to be found here! You totally have a new reader!

Anonymous said...

This recipe was fantastic! My only comment would be that it seemed like it came out too oily. I only cooked two filets so I only used a half teaspoon of Olive Oil. Any suggestions for reducing the oil content? I've never cooked Chilean Sea Bass before so I wasn't sure if that was expected. Love your recipes - Chicken Allouette has been a favorite for years!

Helen said...

Hi there,

Chilean bass is a very oily fish, so feel free to reduce the amount of oil.


Anonymous said...

Still making this recipe 13 years later!