Phew! I thought I had lost my joy of cooking these past few weeks. I was so tired of cooking mundane meals with inferior ingredients that I actually thought about going on a reducing diet! It turns out all I needed was an amazing piece of Chilean Sea Bass! I happened upon it by accident too. I was sent on a quest by my Portuguese partner to get a flag of Portugal for our truck for the Europe Cup soccer tournament. He said he was ashamed that we are the only Portuguese house in town that doesn't have a flag on our truck. So off I went in search of a truck flag. I hit paydirt on my third convenience store. It was a hard fought battle too because the owner of the store had to go into his little back room to find his stash. Then he tried to pawn off the national flag of Cyprus on me, insisting that it was the flag of Portugal. I may be blond, but I do know the flag of almost every country in the world. Gosh! Then we had to dicker over the price because he tried to hose me once he found the flag I needed. What an ordeal!
Since I was in the same plaza as the Asian market, I decided to go in and see if I could find something to make for dinner. I browsed around - and there like it had a beacon shining on it, was the most beautiful sea bass steak I had ever laid eyes on! It cost a fortune and I didn't care. I grabbed some lemons and garlic and green onions and they had some really fresh rapini, so I grabbed that too and practically danced out of the store. I put that flag on my truck right there in the parking lot and drove off with it flapping in the wind, planning my menu in my mind's eye!
By the time I got home, I had decided on a rice pilaf (which you already know how to make if you follow this blog) and sauteed rapini to go with my piece of sea bass. Sea bass is one of God's perfect fish. You'd have to work at it to make it taste bad or ruin it. It can be a less is more kind of fish, or you can go right to town and add some really strong flavours to it. It is a blank canvas in that way. I decided to bake it with a nice lemon and garlic sauce.
For the sauce you'll need:
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons of olive oil
a bunch of sliced green onions. Keep the hearty white parts separate from the delicate green tops
3 cloves of minced garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
a splash of white wine
chopped fresh parsley - this is just getting sprinkled on the fish when you serve it
To prepare the fish:
Season both sides with salt, freshly ground pepper, a bit of cayenne pepper and some lemon zest and lemon juice.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Pour some olive oil in an oven proof non-stick casserole dish and put it in the oven to get the oil really hot. It should be about 1/4 inch deep.
While that oven is heating, you can start your sauce. Melt the butter and the olive oil in a skillet and add the white part of the green onions and once they sweat down a little, add your garlic. Just let it saute for a minute or two (so you don't burn the garlic). Add your wine and lemon juice and stir it around for a few minutes and reduce your heat. Season it with a bit of salt and pepper and let it gently simmer, stirring it once in a while.
When your oven gets up to temperature, remove the hot pan and slide your fish into it. I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is!!! Slide your fish into the oil away from your body, slowly and carefully. That hot oil will be jumping!!! Keep this whole operation away from you as far as your arms will stretch! Put the pan back into the oven for 5 minutes and now you have to flip your fish. Just before you do this, add the tender green tops of the green onions to your sauce. Once again, being ever so careful, flip that fish and put it back in the oven for just 2 minutes. Then take it out and top it with your sauce being careful to make sure all the onion goes on top of the fish and not all over the pan. Put it back in the oven for 3 or 4 more minutes. Your side dishes should be already cooked and ready to serve at this point. In fact, make them first before you start the fish. Remove the fish from the pan and plate it for serving. Sprinkle the parsley on it just before you do this. So amazing. Use any side dish you like with this recipe. I like sauteed rapini, but that isn't to every body's liking. It can be quite bitter, but a bit of chicken broth seems to take that away. Just chop up the rapini and throw away the stems. Melt some butter and olive oil in a skillet and sweat some chopped garlic and add the rapini and about 3/4 cup of chicken stock. Season it with a bit of salt and pepper and put the lid on it for a few minutes. It will reduce to about half of what you started with. Take the lid off and let it saute for about ten minutes more, stirring it once in a while and give it a squirt of fresh lemon juice just before you serve it. Such a wonderful and tasty meal!
Just on a side note, since I used so many lemons to make this meal, I kept all the squeezed out peels and made a simmering pot pourri to make the whole house smell wonderful after and to eliminate any fish odours left behind. Just add about 3 cups of water to saucepan and add your lemon peels, a few cinnamon sticks and a couple of star anise. Let it simmer away on the stove for hours and add more water if it boils away. This will keep your house smelling wonderful for days! Bon Apetit!