Thursday, February 9, 2012

How To Make A Succulent Baked & Crispy Seabass Dish

I've been loving fish for over a year now, and I mean really enjoying it.  My diet has drastically changed from eating red meat almost everyday to eating fish almost everyday. Red meat is still a good choice for a hearty meal right after a full day of physical activity but I've come to have a lesser desire for it lately.  People who know me well would normally ask, how is that possible?  I grew up eating all kinds of meats - you name it : pork, chicken, beef, horse meat, tripes, pork legs...etc since I was a child. I had no way out, growing up with both Asian and French influence. Both cultures refuse to understand the meaning of the word vegetarian.  They even mock it.  It's always been the source of protein at the dinner table with my family on a daily basis.  I would go as far as even stating that we ate meat almost three times a day.  My ultimate sin? Adoring the caramelized fatty edges of well seared pork chops.  Just hearing them sizzle until they turn golden brown with crispy edges would just drive me nuts. Yes, I do crave red meat once in a while, but not as often.   However, if I'm famished and feel a little make way!

Getting back to fish, I only got myself to cooking it more often the past year for the main reason that I couldn't find any good recipes of fish out there.  Isn't it hard to believe given that there are thousands and even millions of fish recipes out there?   That was just my excuse to avoid cooking fish. Not too long ago, I actually found cooking fish to be boring.  I just had no idea how to be creative with it.  In all honesty, what motivated me to cook more with fish is being surrounded by people who started experiencing health issues from poor eating habits, over-consumption of high-cholesterol foods and saturated fats in frozen dinners or pre-packaged dinners.   At that point, I was conscious of the food consumption problem in North America. This led me to be more attentive in what I ate, but at the same time, to continue to enjoy savoury foods.  My visits to the fishmonger became more frequent.  Picking the fish of the day was a delight. I'd have interesting conversations with him on ideas to cook mouth-watering fish dishes.  These conversations certainly gave me incentives to cook these little suckers more often. His tips were almost recipe secrets that would be rarely talked about in food magazines or cookbooks. I might be wrong as I have yet to explore a good fish cookbook. If you know any good ones, please send them my way!
One tip I never forgot was to use the right herbs when seasoning fish.  A strong herb like dill is more suitable for highly-flavourful fish like Salmon.   Milder herbs for white fish would be oregano or even dried 'bouquet garni'. At times, I'd add a bit of heat with chilis without overdoing it since white fish is already very mild in taste which we don't want to overpower. It's like an all-dressed burger where the meat disappears underneath the condiments. So, let's go easy on the spices when it comes to fish.
Used whole seabass, butterflied, bones and scales removed...Aah Instagram!
For this instalment, I used two whole striped seabass which were butterflied (sliced open like a butterfly) with the main bones and scales removed.  There will still be tiny fish bones left so I'd advise you to be vigilant when ready to eat.  This can easily be done by your local fishmonger at no charge.  It makes your whole life easier.   Don't you like that? I then seasoned them with mild spices and drizzled them with olive oil, and 'smooch' irresistible pièce de résistance that is lip-smacking and finger-licking good.  It is impossible to not make any noise while eating this fish dish.  The best part, it's once again a fast a quick meal to prepare.

Seasoned fish with herbs, spices and a bit of dry chili flakes...Gotta love Instagram!

Preparation time : 10 minutes, Baking time: 7-10 minutes

Recipe "au pif":
2 good size seabass about 1 1/2 lb each, butterflied, scales removed, washed, patted dry
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (tip: freeze the ginger to facilitate grating)
1/2 tbsp fresh oregano, finely minced
1/2 tsp dry chili flakes
coarse seat salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Preheat oven to 320F

Grease large rectangular pan with a bit of olive oil

Lay both fish in a large baking pan

Add all the spices : turmeric, garlic, ginger, oregano, chili flakes, salt and pepper and spread them evenly on the surface of each fish

Drizzle more with a bit of olive oil

Season for about 30 minutes before baking.  Tip : seasoning the night before gives amazing results in taste

Bake for about 7-10 minutes.  Turn off heat.  (to give it grilled taste, broil for about 2 minutes).

Serve hot with side dish of rice of your choice.

Serves 2 hungry people or 4 people

Share and enjoy!

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