Chef's Table Recipe: Ciabatta-Wrapped Striped Bass

James Beard House featured chef Martin Brock adds a delightful texture to this striped bass dish with by wrapping the fish in thin slices of ciabatta bread.

Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS:

For the saffron sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons diced shallots
1 garlic clove, chopped
Small pinch saffron

Chefs Table: Ciabatta-Wrapped Sea Bass
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1/3 cup white wine
2 tablespoons Pernod
1 cup chicken stock, warmed
1 tablespoon plus 1 ½ teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Zest of two oranges
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
5 tablespoons cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes

For the tomato–fennel stew

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced on a mandoline
1 red pepper, diced small
1 tablespoon sliced shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
½ cup blanched green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 small tomatoes, skins and seeds removed, diced small, and divided (1 ½ cups total)
1 sprig lemon thyme, stems removed
Salt, to taste
Sugar, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

For the fish

4 striped bass filets, skin removed, about 5 ounces each
Salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
4 thin slices of ciabatta bread
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
2 tablespoons chopped Kalamata olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

To make the saffron sauce, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, and the saffron and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and Pernod and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add the warm chicken stock and reduce the mixture by half. Add the lemon juice and orange zest. Season with a bit of salt, sugar, and cayenne, tasting to make sure the flavors are in balance. Whisk in the butter 1 cube at a time so that the sauce emulsifies. Reserve and keep warm.

To make the tomato–fennel stew, heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook for about two minutes, then add the red pepper and cook for about two minutes more before adding the shallots and garlic. Stir to combine. Add the green beans, 1 cup of the chopped tomatoes, and lemon thyme and stir to combine. Remove from heat, season to taste with salt, sugar, and cayenne and reserve.

To cook the fish, season the bass filets with salt and cayenne on both sides and gently wrap a slice of ciabatta around each filet (see notes). Heat 3 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the fish in the pan, folded side down, and sear for 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and sear on the other side for 3 to 4 minutes more, so that the bread gets crispy and golden, but doesn't burn.

To serve, combine the olives, capers, lemon juice, the remaining chopped tomatoes, and grapeseed oil in a bowl and mix to combine. Place the tomato–fennel stew on a plate and top with one fish filet. Finish with the olive–caper mixture and drizzle with the saffron sauce. Serve warm.

CHEF'S NOTES:

Although it is possible to hand-cut the ciabatta bread into 1/8-inch slices, if you buy the bread at a bakery or high-end food store that has a bakery deptartment, and ask them to slice it for you on their professional bread-slicer. They should use the thinnest setting, and cut from the fattest, center cut of the bread, so that the slice will wrap around the fish completely. Use the leftover bread for sopping up the delicious saffron sauce.


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