Pan Roasted Striped Bass with White Bean and Arugula Salad

Some time back my brother Robert who lives on the East Coast, and I decided to collaborate on food and wine pairings. Robert is an amazing cook and here is one of his favorite meals. Give this recipe a try and pair it with the Parmeson Chardonnay.... I promise you won’t be dissapointed! --Carolyn

Living near the Chesapeake Bay, I have always been a huge fan of what we on the East Coast call Rock Fish. As we head to Northern California in a few weeks, I was glad to see that this fish is available on the West Coast as well. While on the East Coast “Rock Fish” refers specifically to Striped Bass, I learned that on the West Coast, Rock Fish is a more generic term used to refer to a wide variety of fish, one of which is Striped Bass. For this recipe, when you head to the fish store look for Striped Bass and not just Rock Fish.

Striped Bass has a firm flaky meat that is quite forgiving. It has plenty of flavor so it works very well in “simple” recipes that let the fish shine through. So that’s what we are going to do here. And to keep the meal light and healthy we’re going to pair the fish with a room temperature white bean and arugula salad that uses lots of garlic, red onion and good olive oil to create a vibrant complement to the fish.

Striped Bass grow to a large size. A 55 inch fish can weigh 70 pounds and may fish grow much larger. When I am lucky enough to catch a Striped Bass in the Chesapeake Bay, I’m hoping for something around 28 inches which is an average of a 10 pound fish. A fish this size will yield two thick (1.5 to 2 inch) filets. Depending on your appetite one filet will likely be sufficient for two people.

The preparation:

The Salad

Prepare the salad first. If you plan to prepare the fish soon after the salad you do not even need to refrigerate it. It tastes best at room temperature. Ideally the salad should sit at room temperature for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop.

Soak well rinsed Cannellini beans in water for several hours or ideally overnight. Drain the beans and rinse again. Then place in a pot with plenty of water some salt, a bay leaf and pepper and cook until quite tender. Drain the beans and set aside to cool. Whisk together 3-4 tablespoons of good virgin olive oil, the juice of ½ lemon, 3-4 cloves of garlic (minced), sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Let the dressing sit for 20 minutes. Whisk again and adjust seasonings to taste. Thinly slice half a small red onion and add to the beans. Mix all but 2 tablespoons of the dressing and the beans and onion and set aside.

The Fish

I like to prepare Striped Bass in a well seasoned cast iron pan that I can move from the stove top to the oven. If you have not had the pleasure of using a Griswold cast iron pan you owe it to yourself to try it. Yes they are pricey, although I have found more affordable rusty pans at yard sales and cleaned them up, but they are superior to modern alternatives. Nothing against Lodge Pans, but Griswold offers a completely smooth finish that, once seasoned, is truly non-stick. The rougher surface of a Lodge Pan does not offer the same benefits.

Begin by heating a few tablespoons of canola oil in your pan until hot but not smoking.

I like to bring my fish almost to room temperature before cooking. Dry the filets with a paper towel and season lightly with salt and pepper. Dredge the fish lightly in flour and shake off any excess. Then place the fish, skin side down in the pan. Sear the fish until the skin is crisp (3-4 minutes). Turn the fish and sear it for three more minutes. Then move the pan to an oven, pre-heated to 400 degrees and cook until the fish flesh begins to flake when pressed (3-4 more minutes).

Just before serving, toss the arugula (the younger the better) with the remaining dressing. Plate the dressed arugula and spoon the beans on top.

Place the seared fish filet skin side up along side the beans and arugula and your there! This is one of my favorite meals. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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