Seabass: not too fishy yet great flaky meat
September 06 2018 11:10 PM
KEEP IT MILD: Golden rule while cooking fish is not to overpower the natural properties of the fish with too many seasonings. Photo by the author

Last week I received a request for live cooking station for fresh fish and that made me jump with joy at the opportunity to visit and shop at the local seafood market. I was requested for fresh seabass and I knew that won’t be too difficult to source locally. So, I visited the market and bought fresh seabass on the day of the special event. 
Seabass is a lean water fish that is meaty, yet soft and perfect for grilling. Sea bass has a mild, yet delicious flavour. Golden rule while cooking fish is not to overpower the natural properties of the fish with too many seasonings. Use at least a light brush of oil over the fish to hold the seasonings in place. However most of the fish labelled as sea bass are not actually bass. They just have some similar characters related to grilling and that’s why they are labelled as seabass. This is one of the fish that does not taste too fishy and is enjoyed for its great flaky meat. Black sea bass is a true bass which is a popular sport fish as well as an important commercial fish. It is one of the few fishes that tastes great without hurting your wallet and mother nature will thank you for consuming as it is in abundant enough and is usually available fresh. Always choose trap caught or handline caught fish rather than trawl caught fish for best eco rating. 
Black seabass has lean, white flesh with a moderately firm texture, small flakes and a delicate flavour. Because of its small size, it is often prepared whole. Due to its lean nature, do not overcook seabass because it will easily become dry. The skin is edible if descaled and if presented well. You must have noticed Chilean sea bass in restaurant menus everywhere. Chilean sea bass is a Patagonian tooth fish and is a type of cod. It was relabelled because toothfish isn’t an appealing name on restaurant menus especially at a premium price. They are usually prone to overfishing but receive an “ok” eco rating. 
Cooking sea bass
Seabass adapts itself well to many different cooking methods like grilling, baking, steaming, poaching and shallow frying. Grilling is one of the most commonly used cooking method for sea bass and it brings out nice texture and wonderful flavour, making it perfect for everything from serving by itself or in fish tacos or salads. 
The basic rule of grilling applies when you want to grill sea bass. Start with well-oiled and seasoned grill. Be careful about fish sticking to the grill. Check by placing a piece of fish on the grill if it does not stick, then only place the rest of the fish on the grill otherwise it will simply break apart. Heat the grill at a slightly higher temperature and season with some more oil and sprinkle salt to prevent fish sticking to the grill. Avoid overcooking your sea bass, make sure not to dry it out. I always tell my cooks that “The fish is one of the easiest to cook also the easiest to overcook”. The fish is done once the meat is completely opaque through the middle and flakes easily with a fork. This means that if you take a fork to the middle of the fish and lightly lift the meat apart it will have an even colour all the way through and won’t hold together. 
The basic and most important rule for perfect cooking and delicious meal is to start with good ingredients. Similarly, it is very important to choose your fish wisely to get a perfect dish. Keep in mind the following points while you shop for fish
1- Check the eyes of the fish, they are an excellent indicator that the fish is fresh and healthy. They should be crystal clear, plump, wet, shiny, not sunken
2- No bruises on your fish and the fish should smell fresh and not fishy
3- Check the gills, they should be bright red and not brown or black
4- The scales should be shiny and not dull 
5- Always keep the fish refrigerated on ice bed to keep it fresher for longer period 
6- Ask the grocery storekeeper about the delivery schedule and plan your visit accordingly to get the fresh fish

Whole baked seabass

Sea bass fish, whole 2 no.
Olive oil 2 tbsp
Garlic cloves 4-5 no.
Lemon juice 1 tbsp
Parsley, chopped 2 tbsp
Pineapple diced ½ cup
Basil, chopped 2 tbsp
Cherry tomato 6-8 no.
Salt to taste
Crushed pepper to taste

Gut and descale the fish (most of the supermarkets do it for you after they weigh your fish)
Pat dry and make three or four diagonal cuts in each side of the fish and keep aside
In a separate bowl combine oil, lemon juice, garlic paste, parsley leaves chopped, basil leaves chopped, salt and pepper, lemon to make a marinade
Rub the prepared marinade to the fish and keep refrigerated for 30 minutes to an hour
Use a cooking spray to oil the bottom of a roasting pan to prevent fish from sticking to the pan
Drizzle some water or oil on the fish, add cherry tomato and diced pineapple 
Bake in a roasting pan at 350-degree Fahrenheit for approximately 15-18 minutes
Check the doneness of the fish by pressing a fork, if the fish flakes and the meat is opaque then it is cooked
Serve hot garnished with some lemon wedges and grilled vegetable on the side.

* Chef Tarun Kapoor,  
Culinary Mastermind,  USA. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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