Chilean Sea Bass with Lentils, Radish, and Chervil Salads

This dish was a huge success at my restaurant in Singapore, and was one we served during the Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 1996, as well as on a Crystal Cruise off Vietnam in 1998. In the original, we smoked the sea bass slightly, taking the dish to a higher dimension, but at home and without a smoker, use a covered grill and very low fire. To keep the dish simple, I have left out the crabmeat rémoulade that topped the original.

If you can’t get the big watermelon radishes, sometimes called “Beauty Heart,” use daikon stained with beet juice, or just the largest normal red ones.

This dish is meant as a first course, but with bigger pieces of fish, it makes a great main course as well. Use real lentils that will hold their shape, such as “beluga” or the French “du Puy,” and not split pulses like dahl that fall apart.

Brining the fish makes the bass even more tender and moist than it already is.

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Ingredients

  • 4 4-ounce pieces sea bass fillet, boneless
  • 4 cups wet brine
  • ½ cup black beluga or green du Puy lentils
  • 1 large bunch chervil, stemmed, stems and leaves saved
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped shallots
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 large watermelon radish, or6 small red ones, stemmed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
  • ½ tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon cracked white pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Put the pieces of bass in the brine, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Cover the lentils by 4 inches of salted water and boil them for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain well. Chop up the chervil stems very finely and add to the lentils, along with the butter, shallots, and cardamom. Mix, season, and keep the lentils warm.

Cook the fish in the smoker grill (or 400-degree oven) for about 10 minutes. While it is cooking, use a vegetable cutter to slice the radishes as thin as paper into a bowl. Add the lime juice, sesame oil, olive oil, cracked pepper, and a pinch of salt; toss together, and let marinate 5 minutes.

Spoon the lentils in the center of hot plates, and put the fish pieces in the center of the lentils. Put the radish salad on top of the fish.

Toss the chervil leaves in the remaining dressing in the bowl used to mix the radishes, and place on top of the radish salad.

Variation

Garoupa with grilled mushroom hash: use garoupa, red snapper, or salmon, cooking it the same way, or grilling or broiling it. Put the fish on a bed of lentils, and spoon crabmeat or prawn rémoulade, mixed with 2 tablespoons of steelhead caviar, on top of the fish, and on top of that, a tablespoon of portobello mushroom hash.

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