Chilean Sea Bass Provençal
Made in one pan in just 30-minutes, this dish has an astounding depth of flavor.
Versatile in every sense, this dish is fashioned after the glorious flavors that feature prominently on every menu in the south of France: tomatoes, onions, olives, capers, garlic, white wine, and fresh herbs. Chilean sea bass - known as bar de Chili in French - is a substantial, firm, white fish that pairs perfectly with the briny and bright sauce. Cod or salmon would work equally well and you could add some fennel and fresh mussels to the sauce if you wanted to orient the dish towards bouillabaisse. Make this recipe just for you "just because," or prepare it for a party and wow the crowd. It's luscious yet light, incredibly sophisticated yet remarkably simple. All that, and there's only one pan to clean. Once you make this it will become part of your regular rotation, no doubt!
Equipment: cutting board; chef’s knife; paring knife; olive pitter/cherry stoner (optional); measuring spoons; dry and wet measuring cup; large sauté pan with high sides and a tight-fitting lid; wooden spoon; fish spatula
4, 6-8 ounce pieces of Chilean sea bass, skin removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced 2 cups chopped tomatoes (without seeds) 16 pitted nicoise olives, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons of capers
leaves of 3 springs of fresh thyme
pinch of saffron threads (optional)
¼ cup white wine
¼ cup fish or chicken stock kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh herbs for garnish, such as chervil, thyme, dill or tarragon
1. Pat dry the fish dry before seasoning generously with kosher salt and pepper on the skin side. Set aside.
2. Place a large sauté pan with high sides over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the onions and garlic with a pinch of salt and sweat, stirring constantly, until softened but not at all brown, approximately 3-4 minutes mostly over medium-low heat.
3. Add the tomatoes and sauté for 1 minute before adding salt and pepper to taste. Sauté for 2 minutes more over medium-high heat.
ILOC tip: when you are preparing your tomato mise en place, remove and discard the seeds, but chop and keep the ribs and flesh. This will make a better, more concentrated sauce.
4. Add the olives, capers, and thyme. Then add the wine and fish or chicken stock, plus the optional saffron. Turn the heat to high and stir well to incorporate. Season again with just freshly ground black pepper. Let the sauce cook until it simmers.
ILOC tip: once you add the olives and capers, be particularly careful with how much more salt you add to the sauce, since olives and capers are already quite salty from their brines.
5. Add the fish pieces to the pan, tucked in the sauce (what would be skin-side down). Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook over medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the fish has cooked through.
6. Remove the fish from the sauce and set aside, covered loosely with foil. Let the sauce cook for another 1-2 minutes over medium-high heat to reduce slightly.
7. To serve, divide the sauced components evenly among four plates. Top each plate with a piece of fish, drizzle with some of the pan juices, and then garnish with fresh herbs. Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.