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Fort on Sea Bass
There was a time, a few years ago, admittedly, when fishmongers couldn’t give away sea bass. They were considered a very lower order fish. Then chefs discovered them, and found that a) they were cheap (back then); b) they cut up into nice portions; c) when scaled, their skins remained bright silver when cooked, and so looked very pretty on the plate; and their fate was sealed. They became the smart fish of choice, so much so that it became necessary to farm them to keep up with demand.
Of course, there’s a world of difference between a farmed sea bass and the wild variety. For a start there’s size. Wild sea bass can grow to double pound figures (although I’ve never caught one), while farmed sea bass tend to go to the 500g – 1kg size. And if you see a shoal of same sized sea bass on the fishmongers slab, you can bet that they were raised in cages off the coast of Greece of Tunisia or somewhere like that, and their flesh will not have the muscular tautness or the sweet flavour of the wild one.
They seem to be accepted as sustainable by most authorities, but, as with hand-picked scallops, go for the line caught fish. They’re what you might call a versatile fish and take to frying, steaming or being cooked en papillote equally well.
Article written by Matthew Fort
What Sea Bass Goes With
Stronger, punchier flavours often draw out the true brilliance of sea bass so why not try the fish with bacon, as in Matthew Tomkinson's escalope of wild sea bass recipe, or drizzled in a coriander and vanilla sauce, as in Marcello Tully's recipe.
Like scallops, sea bass is well carried by Asian flavours - as exemplified by Shaun Hill's sea bass with Chinese spice recipe and Galton Blackiston's battered sea bass recipe. Alternatively, try the sea bass fillet sliced up in a carpaccio with a simple chilli and oregano dressing as Robert Thompson advocates, or accompanied by a dhal sauce a la Vineet Bhatia.
With sea bass your options are well and truly open, just make sure you cook it with care. Sea bass could be steamed, griddled, or pan fried, and the way it is cooked should depend on which technique will complement the other components on the plate.
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