THERE IS A FISH WE CALL STRIPED BASS
And this fish lives on today because we found a better way, a better way to help restore this silvery fish of Atlantic and river lore. Once upon a time in the days of oil coated rivers, murky bays and river mouths there was a fish on the brink of endangerment. Over fishing was the primary problem along with habitat destruction. This fish was striped bass. It took about twenty years for this recovery to reach the present status of one of our better choices. It is a true bass, lives in salt and fresh water, and is also farmed on inland sea ranches. The seafood management requirements on stripers help to maintain commercial catches so that it never again becomes endangered. Striped bass is firm, white and has a grassy, kelp hinted flavor. They reach a peak weight of 35 pounds and are a fantastic fight if you are a surf caster, troller or fly fish. Accept no sea faring bass imitations.
“Sea Bass” is not bass, it is Patagonian toothfish and lives at the bottom of the ocean in sea trenches, and is as over fished as a fish can be prior to being endangered.
Striped bass are easily mated with perch, which gives us the mighty hybrid now in many of our fresh water lakes. These fish are aggressive, fight like crazy and since they are mated with a delicious fish, the perch, it tastes better than regular large mouth, small mouth or green bass. Knowing where the striped bass was caught helps us to come up with the right recipe. This “where” can be river, fresh, and farm or ocean coastline. Match recipe to protein in all ways.
Sautéed salt water striped bass marinated with V 8 juice, mint and garlic brings out everything good about the sea, the garden and the grocery store. Fresh water stripers and hybrids are as happy being deep-fried or smoker grilled as any fish you can find. They are not fatty and are a perfect diet fish for Hong Kong style steaming and roasting as well as deep fried for those of who need that richer flavor. Whole bass roasted in a white wine and ginger broth is what holiday and family style dining is all about.
If it is a saltwater catch then we can determine that it will need no brine/marinade and will enjoy being sautéed or grilled with minimal oil or butter. If it is fresh water then marinade for a short while and give it a nice compound butter on the grill or deep fried with an aioli sauce. Sometimes a finfish is so great and fresh that all it needs is flour, peanut oil to cook in, lime and salt and pepper.
If you are camping out by the waters then roasted on a spit over an open fire is all you need…and a little bit of Maggi sauce and onions.
But we are not by the South Carolina coast and are not out on Lake Chatuga in the chill lake currents pulling them in (Or are some of us?). We are in our warm kitchens in the suburbs just enjoying the treats that the market had available fresh. OK? So I am readily assuming that you can find fresh striped bass at the touch of a phone or short drive, call ahead to your grocer or even call Inland Seafood and ask them if they have it available. Better yet, go fish! It is so worthwhile to have that time on the water.
V8 STRIPED BASS
Yes, V8 juice or a near equivalent tomato and vegetable juice. You can make your own in a juicer with seeded and skinned tomatoes, carrots, green and red peppers celery, beets, salt and pepper. The added mint, rosemary and garlic gives it enough change in flavor to add a unique holiday presentation. You can prepare this whole or filleted. Our recipe is for fillets. If you want to cook it whole just change the method to add a stuffing of the juice vegetables, bread crumbs and include 15 minutes in a 400-degree oven to the cooking time.
4, 7-ounce fillets of striped bass, scaled with skin on
1-cup V 8 juice or home made
20 leaves mint with stems
2 stalks rosemary
6 cloves garlic, crushed
1-ounce extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon crushed black pepper
Combine ingredients and marinade for thirty minutes. Remove bass from marinade and pat dry. Transfer marinade to sauce pot and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium and let simmer for 15 more minutes. Strain. This will be your sauce for the presentation.
1/ 3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup all purpose yellow corn meal
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
3 ounces equal olive oil and corn oil blend
1-tablespoon very coarse White Sea salt
1 tablespoon brined and rinsed green peppercorns
20 mint leaves
1 stalk rosemary leaves
10 red potatoes, boiled and quartered
2 yellow onions, caramelized
4 ounces butter
1 teaspoon Maggi Sauce
You can serve tourneed potatoes or just peel them and boil them in 2 quarts of water with 1-tablespoon salt. Tourneed is when you peel the potato to look like a six-sided football. This is a presentation from Haute Cuisine and gives a sense of understated elegance to a holiday meal. To caramelize the onions slice them from root end to end. Put them into a small roasting pan and add the butter and Maggi sauce. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.
Dust the fish in the dry ingredients. Heat large iron skillet on high heat with the oil in the pan. When the oil begins to sizzle it is 375 degrees. Gently slide the seasoned fish into the pan with the flesh side down first. Turn heat to medium high and cook 3 minutes. With a slotted metal spatula turn the fish over and cook 3 minutes. Pour off oil and transfer to 400 degree oven and cook for 5 minutes. Do not cook longer.
Strain sauce through fine strainer onto a large serving platter and then place fish on the sauce.
Garnish with mint and rosemary leaves, sprinkle coarse white salt and green peppercorns around the edges of the fish. Then arrange potatoes around platter and put caramelized onions on top of the striped bass. You and the fish will be the star of the table with this classic presentation.
FRESH WATER STRIPED BASS
Striped bass lives in rivers, lakes and the ocean coastlines, which means that it is anadromous. In this way it is like salmon and arctic charr but is not as fatty as these other two species. It is a true sea bass whereas our classic Southern large mouth, small mouth and spotted are members of the sunfish family. Striped bass are easily hybridized with perch making them a delicious, hardy catch. My uncle Allan Driscoll is crazy about catching these fish on small lures resembling a tiny yellow perch. He fishes Lake Chatuga, but they are also heavily seeded in Lake Lanier and just about any trophy fish lake you can find in the South. Lucky for us all they are also easily raised on inland farms with little environmental concern.
This recipe is for a whole five pound and up fish. The bigger the better if you have a large family. This is to be eaten right after it comes out of the oven. Garnish with steamed baby lettuces and vegetables, and a big bowl of your favorite white rice or Chinese wide rice noodles. Tofu fettuccine style shiratake noodles are good with this as well.
Fresh water stripers have a bit of a different flavor recognized when you cook them in separate pans using the exact same ingredients. The difference is that there is a slight “pond” flavor and requires more salt in the seasoning. This flavor is exactly the taste we look for in fresh water fish. I love the way it reminds me of the taste in the air when casting along the points of a cove or at the lake entrance to rivers and streams. Smokers beware for you will not notice the sublime beauty of this fish.
Maggi Sauce, like Golden Mountain seasoning sauce is a Chinese and Thailand bottled sauce similar to Soy, Tamari and Worcestershire. Maggi is an Austrian company that makes a lot of seasoning cubes and such, but the Maggi Sauce itself if specific to modern Asian cuisine. The thing is that it is made with soy, corn and wheat gluten, sugar and salt. Once you use it a few times you will understand why there are dishes on menus in Hong Kong and Thai restaurants that will state “Maggi sauce green bass” or “Golden Mountain crab and shrimp with chicken”. It is not expensive and a little goes a long way.
4, 7 ounce fillets striped bass, or one five pound fish
2 cups buttermilk
1 tablespoon Maggi Sauce or aged Tamari Sauce
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
Submerge fish in marinade and leave in refrigerator for one hour. Remove from marinade and discard marinade.
1 cup bread crumbs
1-cup king or shiitake mushrooms sautéed
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
4 ounces corn oil
Sautee celery and onion in corn oil, add mushrooms and then the breadcrumbs and cilantro. Cook and chill. Stuff mixture into cavity of the striped bass.
1 cup white wine or a pilsner style beer
2 ounces ginger, shaved thin
10 cloves garlic, crushed
10 stalks green onion, cut in thirds
1 teaspoon Maggi, Green Mountain or Tamari
10 Thai chili peppers or a couple of dried chipotle
Combine ingredients in roasting pan. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sear fish in very, very hot skillet with a small amount of corn oil and then place in roasting pan. Cook 20 minutes. Braise every few minutes to season.
Serve immediately in large ceramic high sided serving dish. Pour roasting sauce over the fish. Arrange steamed vegetables around fish. If you can find Chinese King mushrooms then surely add these to your steamed vegetables. They are huge and have a fantastic flavor similar to a steamed clam or ginger poached chicken. Really. King mushrooms are complex and essential to a wide array of dishes and cuisines.
FRIED STRIPED BASS
OK, so you know you like it, we all do, this fried thing that we are so attracted to yet will deny in mixed company. December is as good a time for fried fish as is July. It’s all about how much you enjoy crispy, salty and sweet fish. Well? You do enjoy crispy fish from time to time don’t you? And not the poison from the freezer, we’re talking about fresh striped bass, or hybrid bass; not as good as fried crappie, but since hybrids are mixed with perch it is a crazy good fish.
4, 6-ounce fillets of striped bass
Marinade one hour.
1 cup all purpose flour
1-tablespoon garlic powder
1-teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
Combine ingredients. Dust fish with dry ingredients. Then:
2 cups cold water
Stir dry ingredients into water. Put fish into batter; soak so that the fillets are coated with the tempura style batter. Life out of batter and shake off excess.
2 cups corn oil or peanut oil
Heat oil in large high-sided iron skillet or home style deep fryer to 350 degrees. Fry for three to five minutes.
5 egg yolks
5 cloves roasted garlic
1/2-cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup corn oil
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
½ teaspoon Coleman’s powdered mustard
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
Put egg yolk and garlic in food processor and turn it on. While it is running slowly pour in the oils, then the vinegar and then the salt and sauce. Once it has emulsified (blended to soft peaks) turn off the machine.
5 ounces sweet pickle, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped, rinsed and dried
1 teaspoon white sugar
Stir into aioli and chill.
Fry and set fish on serving platter. Spoon the “tartar” sauce to the side of the dish. Mayonnaise based or oil and vinegar based Cole slaw is a classic side to fried fish, and of course, hush puppies and french fried sweet potatoes are perfect for any time of year.
TURNING POE POSITIVE
In a kingdom by the sea
A lonely fisherman did dwell.
He calmed his soul with song,
He eased his worries by living free,
And then in love, yes he fell,
Yes he rose to find he did belong.
His heart was hers for eternity
And still he fished and watched each day,
He watched and lived and gave back
To the world as much beauty
As was given him. Just to say
Thanks, just to offer tranquility,
To always love and think on track
About his life before the sea and she,
About the way things just get better.
(published late last year, all have been published and the copyrights are mine)