My friend R. is in town this week from San Diego, and she came by the apartment the other night for an impromptu dinner party with Mr. Food Musings and me. I always sweat it a little bit when I have someone over for dinner, even if it's an old, dear friend. I feel the pressure to wow people with my food, especially since I started the blog, and that's a problem since I tend towards humble fare. I'm also tortured by the endless possibilities -- something from the four new cookbooks I just bought? Something from someone else's blog? An old family favorite I've yet to try my hand at? A dish I've made a thousand times and know my guest already loves? It's enough to make a girl give up and call her favorite Thai restaurant for delivery.
Thankfully, ever since my friend E. served this to me and Mr. FM a year ago, this recipe for sea bass has been my go-to. It satisfies all the requirements for a last-minute weeknight dinner: fast, easy, healthy and stunningly delicious. Your guests will feel pampered and you'll be able to enjoy the meal, not having wasted precious energy preparing it.
Asian-style Sea Bass
This is another Weight Watchers recipe but trust me, no one will ever know. I've added a few flavors that it seemed to be screaming for, namely garlic and cilantro, and some asparagus on the side (toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast 12-15 minutes in a 425 degree oven).
It would be irresponsible of me to post a recipe about Chilean sea bass without discussing the controversy surrounding it. The fish (which is really a Patagonian toothfish) is unfortunately overfished and therefore endangered. Within the last few years, you started hearing rumblings that you shouldn't buy it, but thereafter my local market posted a sign prominently at the fish counter reassuring customers that the Chilean sea bass they sell is sustainably fished. I've recently learned that this may not be true. A friend, S., is doing some research on Chilean sea bass and found that 80% of it is caught illegally by poachers. Some of that is then sold to reputable markets and restaurants as legally caught fish. It's nearly impossible to know, therefore, if the fish you're buying is putting its fishie brethren at risk for extinction, or not. Rather than further endangering this fish, unfortunately the best thing to do is to use something else. S. recommends escolar or butter fish, since they both capture that buttery flavor we all love in sea bass. If you can't find those, in a pinch you can use halibut, which doesn't have the same flavor but is a firm, flaky white fish. Not to preach, but unless you can be 100% sure the fish you're buying is sustainably fished, you should consider staying away. Even if you are sure your fish is legal, you might abstain anyway, since reducing demand for Chilean sea bass discourages stores and restaurants from offering it. Think globally, act locally?
1 lb. sea bass, escolar or butter fish
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 scallions, chopped
2 TBSP soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 cups cooked rice
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
- Cut the sea bass into 4 equal portions. Remember, it’s more important for the portions to be the same thickness than the same size – it will ensure they cook at the same rate.
- Divide sea bass between two sheets of aluminum foil. Divide garlic, ginger and scallions in half and sprinkle over top of the fish. Drizzle ½ TBSP of soy sauce and 1 tsp of sesame oil over each packet of fish, then seal aluminum foil into tight packages.
- Bring an inch of water to boil in a large pan. Add sealed packets of fish, cover, and reduce to simmer. Simmer 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Cooking time could vary from 10-20 minutes depending on thickness, so check occasionally by removing one packet from the water, unwrapping the aluminum foil and sticking a fork in it. (Make sure you serve yourself the piece that's been hacked into.)
- Once cooked, drizzle remaining 1 TBSP soy sauce equally over 4 pieces of fish. Garnish with cilantro and serve atop rice.
Bourbon Street Sundaes
Ice cream (or, in Mr. FM's words, "the food of the gods") was the inspiration for this equally quick and easy sundae. It comes from a cookbook that's out of print, and which I love dearly. The sauce takes about 10 minutes to make and zero skill, and there's a dash of bourbon which takes me back to my southern roots. Not that any of us ever drank bourbon at family events. Or any other time. But so what? Teetotalers beware: the alcohol is added after cooking and does not burn off.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 cup skim milk
1 TBSP bourbon (I use Knob Creek)
1 tsp butter
2 TBSP pecans, chopped
vanilla ice cream for 4
- In a medium sauce pan over medium-high heat, whisk brown sugar and cornstarch till mixed. Slowly drizzle in milk, whisking constantly, until mixture boils. Stir one minute longer until thickened and remove from heat.
- Stir in bourbon, butter and pecans. Once butter is melted, place four scoops of vanilla ice cream in separate bowls and drizzle with sauce. Garnish with a plump whole pecan (and a shot of bourbon, if you're so inclined) and dig in.