Delicious Striped Bass Recipe
While at the farmers market, I asked my friend Andy the fishmonger from Ardmore Seafood Market what was really fresh, and he pointed me to the whole wild striped sea bass. You could see with one glance the fish was really fresh by the color, clearness of the eyes, the shiny skin and most importantly the smell or, more precisely, lack of smell.
Andy pulled out a 5 pounder as shown in the picture, but it was way more than I needed for two adults and two kids. We agreed on a 3 pounder that he removed the head, scaled, and then thoroughly cleaned the cavity.
We ended up with just over 2 pounds of fish, perfect for the four of us.
Get to Know Your Fishmonger
I'm sure Andy is great with all his customers, but the fact that I take the time to say hello every week and ask questions goes a long way to making sure I get his complete attention. When I ask him what's really fresh each week, he doesn't point me to the most expensive piece of fish but directs me to something just off the boat.
If I'm looking for a bargain, he is quick to come up with something like the striped bass.
What really impressed me is how he offered to pack the fish in ice in case I was going to be doing more shopping. I didn't ask; he just offered. You should never hesitate to ask your fish person to do the same if you are going to be out and about. Fish is expensive and you want to keep it as fresh as possible.
A little ice costs them very little and the service will keep you coming back. As a back-up plan, always bring a small cooler and some ice packs with you on your trips to the seafood market.
Did you know tarragon is in the sunflower family? It has a bittersweet flavor and smells a lot like licorice.
The flavor intensifies when heated, so be careful how much you use. Most of us have heard of tarragon infused oil or tarragon chicken but it is also good with fish, rabbit, veal, pork and potatoes.
I will tell you 1 tablespoon of fresh tarragon = 1 teaspoon of dried but for this dish try to use fresh only. It really makes a huge difference in flavor, because the oils in dried tarragon dissipate and mellow.
Food & Wine
My wife brought home a 2006 Australian white wine called The Money Spider made from Roussanne grapes. This is a Rhone styled wine that is made to be drunk with food and not alone. I couldn't figure out the connection with the name so I went to the winemaker's web site and learned the following,
The first crop of Roussanne from the 2000 vintage was found to be covered in a sea of tiny "Money Spiders". Popular belief is that kindness to these active little creatures will bring good luck, hopefully in the form of money.
Being nature-lovers and slightly superstitious to boot, we refrained from sending the spiders to their death and hence were not able to release our first Roussanne until the 2001 vintage by which time the "Money Spiders" had learned their lesson and moved from the vineyard to the bushland surrounding the winery.
The wine has a "orange blossom" nose with an apple taste on the palate. I found it big enough to go with the meaty striped bass and was a nice alternative to the Chardonnay we normally would drink with a meal like this. My wife had a glass after dinner and thought it wasn't a good as with the meal but we both enjoyed it with the dish.
I suppose in a restaurant they would serve this dish table-side whole and have the waiter remove it from the bone in perfect portions. I'm not that good, so I am asking for any and all suggestions on alternative ways to serve the fish at home.
After I let the fish rest a few minutes, I removed it from the pan and took out the backbone in one fell swoop. There were still some rib bones left, which were not a problem for my wife or me, but even microscopic bones would be enough to cause my girls to stop eating.
You can be sure I was careful to serve them only boneless pieces!
I cut the fish in half following the backbone line, removed bone-free pieces for the girls and served the rest to my wife and myself. I served the fish on a bed of couscous and topped it with a few olives.
I served the eggplant and shallots on the side. A drizzle of pan juices over the fish finished the plate. Everyone loved the fish, and I can't wait to try it again with some other ingredients.
I used shallots and eggplant but onion and yellow squash would have worked and I encourage you to try ingredients you enjoy and would like to serve with this dish.
Roasted Wild Striped Bass Recipe
- 2 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil olive oil will work fine but it is close to Halloween
- 1 lemon cut in half (don't worry you'll use both halves)
- 2 pounds wild striped bass whole and cleaned
- 4 sprigs fresh tarragon 3 for stuffing the striped bass cavity and one for mincing
- salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 medium eggplant cut into ¼ inch slices across
- 3 large shallots sliced
- 12 kalamata olives pitted and cut in half
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Preheat your over to 425° F.
- If your fishmonger did not thoroughly clean the fish cavity, I recommend you give it a good cleaning, making sure to remove any blood that may be present. Of course, you will want to scale the fish too if that wasn't done.
- Combine the juice from half of the lemon with the pumpkin seed oil and rub all over the fish inside and out.
- Season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and place three of the tarragon sprigs inside the bass cavity.
- In a roasting pan big enough to hold the fish, line the bottom of the pan with the sliced eggplant. Then, add the sliced shallots. Add the wine to the pan, and then the wild striped bass.
- Place the olives and lemon slices on top of the fish.
- Sprinkle with the minced tarragon, and roast in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes until the fish reaches an internal temperature of approximately 135° F. - 140° F. The flesh should be opaque and flake easily.