Pan-seared sea bass with wilted arugula and beet vinaigrette

Easy as A, B, sea bass

Originally appeared in the April 07, 2011 edition of the Southside Times.

The headliner of this dish is the fish, of course; but our two accompanying components are far from perfunctory.  This trio—delicate sea bass, spicy arugula, and beet vinaigrette—although ostensibly simple, produce an intriguingly complicated flavor combination.  Continue reading after the jump:When cooking in a sauté pan, it’s a common urge for novice cooks to fidget with the fish.  But please (even if using Teflon), resist this impulse, particularly during the initial stage of the cooking process.  Properly heating your oil before gently placing the fish in the pan creates an exterior barrier, which requires a few patient minutes to form.  Essentially, the less you mess with it, the easier it is to flip.

Sear your sea bass in an oven-safe sauté pan (read: no rubber handles), something you can slip into the oven to finish the fish.  To check doneness, press the sides or top of the fish; if the flesh feels firm and gives some resistance, you’re good to go.

Sea bass has a flaky texture, and the skin crisps up to a briny crunch; while the Arugula (also known as “rocket”) acts as a peppery response to the sweet-and-sour sauce.  With all three sharing the stage, the finished product’s a scene-stealer.

Pan-seared sea bass with wilted arugula

Serves 2

  • 2 medium, skin-on sea bass steaks (or one large cut in half)
  • As needed, canola oil
  • ½ shallot, thin slice
  • ¼ tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 7 – 8 ounces fresh arugula
  • ¼ white wine
  • To taste, kosher salt and cracked black pepper

1.  Preheat oven to 350° F.  On range, heat sauté pan to medium-high; add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of sea bass.  Once oil’s hot, place fish in pan skin-side down.  Tilt pan so that the oil surrounds the fish; sear for several minutes.  Using an offset spatula or tongs, flip fish.  Cook for a few moments before placing in 350° F oven.  Cook through for 5 – 7 minutes.

2.  Remove fish from oven and reserve, covered, on a plate.  Return sauté pan to medium heat; add butter, and allow to melt before sautéing shallots, cook until translucent.  Pour in white wine, and reduce.  Add in arugula—cook until just wilted.  Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.  Place sea bass on top of arugula, and serve with beet vinaigrette (follows).

Beet vinaigrette

Yields approximately 8 fluid ounces

  • 12  fluid ounces beet juice
  • ¾ tablespoon fresh horseradish
  • ½ shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 – 4 whole sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 – 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 fluid ounces apple cider vinegar
  • 1 fluid ounce white wine
  • 1 fluid ounce chicken stock
  • ½ tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ tablespoon water
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • To taste, kosher salt

1.  In a medium saucepan, combine beet juice, horseradish, shallot, garlic, thyme and peppercorns.  Bring to a simmer and reduce by half (about 6 ounces).

2.  Add vinegar, wine, and stock; simmer for about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, combine cornstarch and water, and mix with your finger until smooth (this is called a “slurry”).  After mixture has simmered for about 10 minutes, stir in, making sure the cornstarch-water mixture is dissolved.

3.  Add sugar, and adjust flavor with salt.  Strain sauce, re-season if necessary, and serve warm.

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