I saw some lovely striped bass on sale. Ignoring the fact that I had an enormous amount of preparation ahead, and that purchasing some perishable fish may not be terribly wise, I ordered half a pound and added it to my overflowing shopping cart.
Sure enough, I was so busy I had no time to prepare the striped bass. It sat, wrapped and untouched, in my refrigerator that busy day. By 11 p.m., the last thing I wanted to do was cook fish. What to do?
I needed to season the bass and use the additional time to enhance it, not end up with an expired fillet. I blended fresh tarragon, lemon juice, and cayenne with mayonnaise, coated the fish and covered it for another night, hoping for the best.
The next evening, I cooked it. The result was excellent. The fillets had absorbed the fresh flavors of tarragon and lemon juice. They were moist and flavorful. I served the fillet on a bed of couscous, drizzled with a punched up, good olive oil. I then divided it in two and served with a light green salad.
This is a do-ahead dish that I will definitely do again.
One large striped bass fillet—just over half a pound—yielded two servings. For four servings, use two good-sized fillets, about a pound and a half.
What You Need:
A foil-lined baking pan coated with olive oil
Small pot with tight-fitting lid
For the Fish:
1½ lbs. striped bass: 2 large pieces of striped bass fillet
Salt and pepper
3 T. mayonnaise
1½ tsp. lemon juice
2½ T. finely chopped fresh tarragon
¼ tsp. cayenne
For the Seasoned Oil:
4 T. olive oil
1½ tsp. snipped chives
Salt to taste
½ tsp. lemon juice
For the Couscous:
1½ C. couscous
2/3 C. water
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. sweet Andalusian paprika
½ tsp. butter
Dash of cayenne
4 lemon wedges and 2 tsp. finely chopped parsley to garnish
Place the two pieces of bass on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, blend the mayonnaise, tarragon, lemon juice, and cayenne. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Spread the mixture over each fillet, thoroughly coating the top and sides. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, blend the olive oil, chopped chives, and dash of salt in a small bowl.
Boil water for the couscous.
Transfer the fillets to the oiled baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes, checking for doneness, as a thinner piece may be done sooner and a thicker piece may take longer.
While the fish is baking, stir the salt, sweet paprika, a dash of cayenne, and the butter into the boiling water, then add the couscous and remove from the heat. After five minutes, fluff the couscous. Cover to keep warm.
When the fish is ready, place a bed of couscous in the center of a serving platter. Drizzle with half the olive oil and chive mixture. Place the fish fillets—whole or cut in half—onto the couscous. Drizzle the fillets and the plate with the remaining olive oil and chive mixture. Garnish with the parsley and lemon wedges.
By Lisa Reitman Dobi