Striped Bass with Oyster Stew
At one time, striped bass flourished in the Pamlico Sound on North Carolina's coast. Overfishing and pollution seriously diminished the bass population, however, resulting in severe restrictions on their commercial harvest. Through better fisheries management, there has been a resurgence in the bass population on the East Coast, and we are now regularly able to offer this delicious fish at the restaurant.
This preparation accentuates the terrific crispness that can be achieved by searing the skin side first. In the fall, the fish are particularly fatty from a summer of feeding, and this method protects the flesh from overcooking and drying out.
Serve the bass with the first oysters of autumn and accompany with tomato gumbo and Beanie's cornbread.
- 6 wild striped bass or rockfish filets (6 ounces each), skin on and scaled
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- peanut oil for sauteing
- 1 pint shucked oysters
- 2 ounces country ham, sliced thin and cut into 1/4-inch dice
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 1/2 cup onion, cut into small dic
- preparation for the stew
1. Strain the oysters and reserve the oyster liquor; refrigerate the oysters until ready to use for final assembly. In a medium saucepan, cook the ham in the peanut oil until lightly caramelized. Add the onion, red bell pepper, and celery and cook until caramelized. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaf; cook 1 minute.
2. Add the bourbon, lemon juice, wine, and reserved oyster liquor. Cook until greatly reduced and nearly syrupy, stirring frequently. Add the roasted chicken stock and simmer over medium heat, skimming as necessary, until reduced by half. Cool and reserve until preparing the bass.
1. Remove the bass from refrigeration and dry thoroughly with paper towels. With a sharp knife, score an X in the skin side to prevent it from curling when the fish is cooking. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper; rub the skin side with some of the softened butter.
2. If serving with tomato gumbo, heat the gumbo and stir in the cooked rice as indicated in the last step of the recipe. Keep warm. Return the stew to low heat and add the heavy cream; bring to a slow simmer.
3. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add a film of peanut oil, then carefully lay the filets in the pan, skin side down. Reduce the heat to medium and press firmly on the filets with the back of a metal spatula to flatten slightly and aid in the searing; cook 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the filets. When the edges of the filets begin to show doneness, turn carefully and cook 1 minute longer. Remove the filets and keep warm.
4. Raise the heat on the stew to medium-high, stir in the oysters and butter, and cook just until the oysters are plumped and beginning to curl. Remove from the heat, stir in the sage, and season with salt, black pepper, and lemon juice to taste.
5. Warm 6 wide, shallow bowls. If serving with tomato gumbo, spoon 3/4 cup of gumbo in the center of each bowl. Place a filet in each bowl, on top of the gumbo, if used. Spoon the stew around the filets, dividing the oysters equally between the bowls. Sprinkle liberally with scallions and serve immediately.
This recipe is from the book Not Afraid of Flavor:Recipes from the Magnolia Grill by Award-Winning Chefs Ben and Karen Barker