Roasted Sea Bass with Olives and Basil

As Nancy describes it, “This sea bass dish is the sort of food we [chefs] like to prepare when we want to make a good impression with a minimum of effort.”

California white sea bass, the fish Nancy uses, is a medium-dense, moderately mild-flavored, lean fish. Other fish that could be substituted in this recipe are Atlantic grouper, drum, and mahi-mahi.

Nancy serves the fish with chunky mashed potatoes mixed with mascarpone and arugula. The fish can be stuffed, the tomato vinaigrette made, and the potatoes cooked (up until the point of combining them with the arugula and red pepper flakes) for reheating later in a microwave—all up to 6 hours in advance.

Ingredients

Method

Cut 4 diagonal slices ½ inch deep into the flesh side of the fish. Mix together the olives and the preserved lemon. Stuff about ½ teaspoon of the mixture into every other cut. Stuff the basil pesto in the other 2 cuts.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Heat an ovenproof nonstick saute pan large enough to hold all the fillets in one layer over medium heat. When hot, add the olive oil. Put the fish in the pan skin side up and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Carefully turn the fillets over. Put the pan into the oven and roast for 4 minutes, or until the fish is cooked through (the cuts in the fish will cause it to cook more quickly). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, place a scoop of mashed potatoes on each of 6 warm dinner plates. Put a bass fillet on top, skin side up. Spoon the tomato vinaigrette around the plates.

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