This is a departure from my usual bright, voluntarily overexposed photography. Today I decided to join the dark side with a pitch black background largely inspired by the photography in Modernist Cuisine. It’s kind of fun, I think.
I bought a black sea bass, one of my favorite fish, and prepared this dish in less than 45 minutes. I removed the central bone of the fish and stuffed it with an aromatic and colorful julienne of vegetables sauteed with garlic, ginger and scallions and finished with toasted sesame seeds and a touch of sesame oil. The whole fish is then wrapped in puff pastry with herbs, shaped like a fish, and baked until golden and puffed which makes it a great dish to present at the table when you have guests. Think of it as fish wrapped in a fluffy scallion pancake. I served it with a mousseline sauce because anything is better with mousseline sauce on it.
One of the great thing about cooking a whole fish in a pastry or salt crust is that it stays succulent and moist while absorbing the aromas of whatever you enclose it with. You could take many different routes with this dish, stuffing the fish with fennel, lemon and olives and serving it with a tomato coulis for a more Mediterranean feel. The possibilities are endless.
Black Sea Bass “en croûte” with Aromatic Vegetables & Mousseline Sauce
- Serves 2
For the Black Sea Bass “en croûte”
- 1 black sea bass, about 2 lbs, filleted, skin off
- 1 zucchini, julienned
- 1 yellow squash, julienned
- 1 small carrot, julienned
- 1 red pepper, julienned
- 2 or 3 scallions, julienned
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 1 small knob ginger, chopped
- 3 or 4 sprigs cilantro, chopped
- toasted sesame seeds
- a touch of toasted sesame oil
- a touch of soy sauce
- a touch of mirin
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 sheets puff pastry
- 1 egg, for egg wash
For the Mousseline Sauce:
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, clarified or melted
- Pinch cayenne
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup whipped cream
For the Black Sea Bass “en croûte”:
- Preheat oven to 375′F. In a wok, or large sautee pan stir-fry the julienned vegetables until cooked but still crisp. Finish with the ginger, garlic, cilantro, sesame seeds and oil, and a drop of soy sauce and mirin. Cool.
- Roll out a sheet of puff pastry on a floured surface. Lay out some scallions and top with a fish filet the long way. Season the fish with salt and pepper and top evenly with the stir-fried vegetables. Season the second fish filet and place on top of the vegetables like if you were reconstituting the fish. Top with some more scallions.
- Mix the egg yolk with a tablespoon of water or milk and brush it all around the fish. Roll out the second sheet of puff pastry and place on top of the stuffed sea bass. Tucking it in tightly to give it a fish shape and pressing the dough to seal. Make some decorative patterns with the tip of a small knife. Trim the excess puff pastry (which you can bake separately to snack on) and place on a baking tray.
- Brush the top of the pastry with the remaining egg wash and bake for about 20 min or until golden and puffed. Cooking time depends on the thickness of the fish filets.
- Slice at the table and serve with mousseline sauce and sauteed shumeji mushrooms and spinach.
For the Mousseline Sauce:
- Whisk the egg yolks and lemon juice in a stainless steel bowl and until the mixture has thickened. Place the bowl over a bain-marie and continue to whisk rapidly. Be careful not to let the eggs get too hot or they will scramble. Slowly drizzle in the clarified or melted butter and continue to whisk until the sauce is emulsified and smooth. Remove from heat, whisk in cayenne and salt. Fold in the whipped cream at the last moment before serving.