Sunday, February 5, 2012

Couscous and Olive Stuffed Sea Bass

The first time I ate fish whole was when I was nine at my uncle's lakefront house near Seattle. The house was gorgeous with a hot tub, floor-to-ceiling windows and two staircases. Very cool in my nine-year-old mind. What I did not find so appealing was the fish eyes staring back at me as we sat down to dine one evening. This distant memory and perhaps a little fear of failure deterred me from ever cooking a whole fish myself.

Until now.

In the movie Ratatouille, the ghost of brilliant chef Gusteau admonishes young Reme, "You must try things that may not work... only the fearless can be great." With his words ringing in my ears I walked up to the seafood counter last week and ordered two gleaming sea bass.

We invited a friend from the base to join us for a quiet dinner at home, and I set about cooking. Again I looked to Tyler Florence for inspiration. He is one of those chefs/authors who never fails me. I loosely followed his recipe in Tyler's Ultimate for Roasted Striped Bass with Green Olive Couscous and Grapefruit Butter. The flavors were perfect. The fish, well, it was bony. So I would not recommend this when you're serving children. But for everyone else the presentation is lovely and the taste equally brilliant.

Serves 4

4 whole sea bass, gutted and scaled
Pinch sea salt

1/4 cup butter
Juice and zest of one grapefruit

1 cup couscous
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup pitted green olives, roughly chopped
1 cup green beans, blanched and chopped in 1/2 inch segments
Sea salt and ground black pepper

1 grapefruit, cut into wedges

To make the couscous, bring the water to a simmer with a pinch of sea salt and the grapefruit zest. Add the couscous, cover and let stand for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and add the vinegar, olives and green beans. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

In a small saucepan melt the butter with the grapefruit juice and reduce for about five minutes.

Preheat your oven's broiler to high.

Prepare the fish by sprinkling the interior cavities with sea salt. Stuff with couscous and drizzle with the grapefruit butter.

Broil for five minutes, then turn the oven to bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for another 10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Use a thermometer to avoid agitating the delicate flesh.

Spread the remaining couscous on a serving platter, top with the fish and garnish with grapefruit wedges.

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