Citrus sea bass – Crispy skinned sweet sea bass served with a sauce made from citrus juice and infused with basil
As I was putting this colourful little plate together I got to thinking about local and seasonal ingredients. There’s a chef down in Galway on the west coast of Ireland I was reading about recently. He doesn’t put anything on the menu that he can’t source within a 30-mile radius of his restaurant.
Chef Jp McMahon’s restaurant is called Aniar and he calls this style of cooking cuisine terroir . It’s a noble idea, something we should all aspire to, eco-friendly, with a low-carbon footprint. They must be doing something right because the restaurant won a Michelin star a couple of years back. Generally local and seasonal will always taste better than ingredients flown from thousands of miles away. It’s on my list of restaurants to check out. If I can get a table.
If I was to cook this way all the time there’s a couple of things I’d miss, and citrus fruit would sure be one. This crispy citrus sea bass is anything but local and seasonal. Down the market, I tried to get my hands on the largest array of citrus possible. Oranges, lemons, limes, pink grapefruit, and blood oranges are all included for a dish of contrasting hues and citrus flavours.
When you squeeze the juice from all the different citrus it leaves you with a beautiful ruby coloured liquid to make your sauce. This is reduced down a little to concentrate its flavour before being enriched with butter and infused with basil for freshness.
Various citrus fruits have different levels of acidity and sweetness. Lemons and limes will be a bit more tart than the oranges. So to give a little balance to the sauce I use a fair bit of orange juice which tends to be sweeter than the other fruits depending on the variety.
Make sure you give the sauce a quick taste before you serve it if you think it’s too bitter than whisk in a little icing sugar remembering that the flesh of the fish is naturally sweet.
Nearly every time I’m cooking sea bass I opt to pan-fry it. I love the crispy skin with the moist melting flesh underneath. For a really crispy skin get your non-stick pan out and gently heat a little oil, before you place the fish in. It helps if you dry the skin well on some kitchen paper first.
Than just saute the fish slowly skin side down till it cooked 90% of the way through for a super crispy result. Next, flip it over, remove your pan from the heat, and let the fish sit for about a minute in the residual heat to finish cooking.
While I was doing my shopping for this I noticed the blood Oranges came all the way from Florida, U.S.A. The farmed sea bass from Greece and the rest of the citrus fruit from god knows where. I’m guessing Spain or maybe Israel. So local and seasonal it’s not!
What food would you miss the most if you only cooked cuisine terroir with local and seasonal ingredients?
Peel and segment all your citrus fruit over a bowl to collect any escaping juice. Set the segments aside to add to your sauce later.
Squeeze the centers of the citrus fruits over the same bowl extracting as much juice as possible.
Pour the juice through a sieve to remove any pips. This should leave you with about a pint of zesty citrus flavoured liquid with which to make your sauce.
To make the sauce pour the juice into a pan and reduce by about a third. Add the basil to the warm juice and set aside to infuse. Keeping a few of the basil leaves aside for garnish later.
To cook the fish heat a large non stick pan on a moderate heat then add the oil. Gently place the bass in the pan and cook slowly skin side down for about 5 minutes till the skin is golden, crispy, and the fish is cooked 90% of the way through.
Remove the pan from the heat and flip the sea bass over allowing the fish to finish cooking in the residual heat.
To finish the sauce bring the juice back up to the boil and whisk in the diced butter then pass the sauce through a sieve to remove the basil.
Next taste your sauce and if you like it a little sweeter than whisk in the confectioners sugar.
Add the reserved citrus segments back to the sauce to warm them through.
To serve spoon a generous amount of the sauce and citrus segments into the center of 4 plates. Top with the crispy seabass and garnish with basil leaves.
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