sea bass with tarragon; sunflower sprouts; roasted carrots

One and a half fillets, fried perfectly this time.

Normally I insist on an even number when there are 2 of us, but this time there were 3 fillets, weighing exactly one pound. I was aiming for about a pound of fish, but my only other choices for a divisor for two people would have been 2 fillets for 10.5 ounces, of 4 for 19.5 ounces. I decided I could  halve one of the 3 without sacrificing the plate aesthetic, and that’s what I Went with.

I got the color right (what looks like carbonized areas were not, just more intense), but the most important thing is always the flavor; I include texture in that noun, and this time I really scored: The bass was delicious, and the skin was crisp. I’ve now borrowed Hank Shaw’s technique several times, from his piece, ‘Perfect Seared Fish‘, and I think I’m getting the hang of it.

There was also a brief drama, when the oil I was using, which has a relatively low flash point, caught fire inside the pan and I had to blow out the flame – 3 times.

  • before the main course we nibbled on some extraordinarily delicious farm-made potato chips (Kennebec potatoes, sea salt, rice bran oil) from Rick Bishop’s Mountain Sweet Berry Farm in Roscoe, New York

And then there was the fish.

  • three 5-ounce striped bass filets from Pura Vida Seafood Company removed from the refrigerator, salted a little, allowed to rest at room temperature for almost half an hour, the skin sides then scraped with a butter knife to remove excess moisture, both sides patted with a paper towel until thoroughly dry, after which, once a seasoned steel pan had been heated above a high flame, a tablespoon or a little more of Mac Nut macademia nut oil from Chelsea Whole Foods Market was poured into the pan, being careful to avoid spilling any oil onto the flame below the pan [see above], then, holding the handle, swirled to cover the bottom and heat the oil in the process, the 3 filets placed skin side down inside the pan, immediately jiggled to ensure that the fish doesn’t stick, the top or flesh side of the filets quickly seasoned with sea salt, to taste, the heat turned down to medium-high, the filets pressed down lightly with a spatula for 30 to 60 seconds, to ensure that the skin browns evenly and the fillets don’t curl, cooked without moving them for 3 or 4 minutes, and, because these fillets were small, either constantly spooning the hot oil over the flesh side until the meat turned opaque, or, once their outside edges had cooked, turning the fillets over for a minute or two to finish their cooking, the fish removed to a warm platter and the heat turned off altogether, a couple tablespoons of a rich butter swirled into the pan so it melted swiftly, a tablespoon of fresh tarragon from Whole Foods Market added and pushed around, the pan tilted, the sauce scraped to the bottom and poured onto the plates, the filets then placed on top of the sauce
  • a small handful of sunflower sprouts from Windfall Farms
  • a mix of small red Kyoto carrots and more familiar loose orange carrots, both from Norwich Meadows Farm, scrubbed and dried, tossed inside a bowl with a little olive oil, salt, black pepper, more than half of a teaspoon of crushed Italian fennel seed, and a bit of crushed dried habanada pepper, arranged inside a large unglazed ceramic Pampered Chef oven pan, roasted at 400º for about 30 minutes, or until tender, arranged on the plates and garnished with micro purple radish from Two Guys from Woodbridge
  • slices of a ‘Seedy Grains’ loaf from Philadelphia’s Lost Bread Company, whose ingredients are wheat, spelt, rye, and barley organic bread flours; buckwheat; oats; and 4 seeds (flax, sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin); water, and salt

There was a small cheese course, but I didn’t photograph it this time.

  • two excellent cheeses, a new one, still in development, a washed rind buffalo milk from Riverine Ranch, something like a German Munster or Danish havarti; and their classic medium-firm goat cheese, ‘Manchester’, from Consider Bardwell Farm
  • lightly-toasted very thin slices of Lost Bread Company’s ‘Seedy Grains’