I try to make our meals as visually appealing as they are tasty, but sometimes things just don’t work out as I had hoped they would. On those occasions, I usually just don’t write up the meal or post the photos, but Mike has encouraged me to do so – it’s a truer representation of what really goes on in our kitchen, and putting it out there is a good way for me to talk about what worked and what didn’t, as well as to work out what to do differently next time.
When I was surfing around yesterday trying to gain some new ideas for the black sea bass we would be having for dinner, I came across this recipe for Black Sea Bass en Papillote on Leite’s Culinaria. We had leeks and some gorgeous heads of baby cauliflower at home, so I decided to use those along with some artichokes to accompany the fish.
I decided against packeting the fish and vegetables; I love the skin of black sea bass, and I wanted to get it really crispy, so cooking it in a really hot pan was the way to go. Our filets were on the small side, so I decided to give them a very light dusting of flour before putting them into the hot pan, hoping this would help them hold together better. I scored the skin, seasoned the filets on both sides with kosher salt and black pepper, and set them aside for a bit while I worked with the veggies.
I sliced and cleaned two leeks and placed them on a foil-lined baking sheet. I quartered three of the heads of assorted baby cauliflower (leaving the outer leaves attached), and added a box of thawed frozen artichoke hearts (next time I am definitely using fresh ones, but we can’t get them in our neighborhood, and I had these on hand). I seasoned the vegetables with salt and pepper, tossed them with a bit of olive oil, and placed them into the oven to roast – 400 degrees for about 20 minutes.
We generally use our cast iron skillet for searing just about any sort of meat, fish or fowl, but I decided to try searing the fish filets in our nonstick skillet instead. I got it really hot, added a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and added the fish filets (which were lightly coated with flour) skin-side down. The fish cooked for about 3-4 minutes on the first side, then for another minute or two on the second side, and they did get gorgeously crispy.
I drained the excess oil from the pan and deglazed it with a cup or so of white wine and a blob of Dijon mustard; I added a couple of tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves and whisked in a tablespoon of butter off the heat. I plated the black sea bass filets on a bed of the roasted veggies and spooned the sauce on top. I was incredibly pleased with the flavors and textures here, but unfortunately, everything looked sort of… brown.
Now, I’m not a huge fan of boiled or steamed vegetables, but I think one of those methods might have been the best way to keep the vibrant colors of the cauliflower intact. However, I was so happy with how the fish turned out that I will probably use this method for cooking delicate filets going forward; and though the little mustard-wine pan sauce I made was tasty, I’m not convinced the fish needed it – perhaps just a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some chopped fresh herbs will work better. Live and learn!