Striped bass is a local delicacy on the East End of Long Island–it’s available all through the winter and has the perfect texture for a variety of preparations. It’s firm enough to grill without falling apart; it’s great in a seafood stew–it becomes tender and flaky without instantly falling apart; and it’s great simply pan-seared.
This dish is a combination of a pan-sear and a stew. With leeks still in season, I’ve decided to make a light tomato sauce with leeks, olives and white wine. This is a tart but delicate sauce that’s great with just about any fish.
The sauce is made in an ovenproof skillet large enough to hold the fish. The fish gets seared separately on the skin side, which makes the skin golden and crispy. The fish is then nestled in the sauce skin side up. The skillet is placed in a 400 degree oven and allowed to braise for about 10 minutes (depending on the thickness of your filets).
The sauce, which is made with canned diced tomatoes, is allowed to remain a bit liquidy, since it will reduce and tighten in the oven while the fish braises. The fish will impart its flavor to the sauce, and after the time in the oven, the sauce will be slightly thicker, with all flavors in perfect harmony.
Along with the fish, I served buttery (even before I added the butter) baked yukon gold potatoes coated with salt, and savoy cabbage with bacon. The smokey bacon flavor on the plate also marries quite well with striped bass.
Striped Bass with Leeks, Tomatoes and Olives
2 lbs. striped bass filets
2 large leeks, whites and light green sections only–halved, cleaned, and sliced into 1/4″ half-moon slices
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1/4 c olive oil
2 tbls pitted green olives (I used Picholine)
2 tbls pitted black olives (I used Kalamata)
1/2 c white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbl fresh chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In an ovenproof skillet, combine the leeks, olives and half the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Turn heat to high and saute for about 3 minutes, or until leeks begin to wilt. Add white wine and cook for another minute. Add canned tomatoes and simmer, uncovered for another 8 minutes.
After 8 minutes, the sauce should have reduced slightly, but still be quite liquidy.
Taste for salt and set aside.
Heat a nonstick skillet on high heat for about 1 minute, then add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spinkle fish with salt and pepper on both sides and genlty slip the fish filets into the hot oil, skin side down.
Allow to sear, undisturbed for 3 minutes on high heat. (This will spatter and smoke but it’s only 3 minutes).
Remove fish from skillet and nestle the filets in the sauce, skin side up. The skin should not be submerged.
Place in oven for 10 minutes. Test for doneness by inconspicuously slitting the thickest filet and looking inside to make sure that the center is white and fairly soft (not pink and rubbery).
Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with remaining olive oil.
Serve immediately. If you have leftovers, remove the skin before you refrigerate–the skin gets unpleasantly rubbery after refrigeration.