Sunday Supper. Wild-Striped Bass with Heirloom Tomatoes, Pea Sprouts and Yuzu Kosho Dashi.
I was in San Francisco this weekend when I got a call from J who was at the Hollywood farmer’s market. In the previous 48 hours, I had gotten a taste of a delicious pork chop from NOPA, slurped oysters and various savory seafood soups from Hog Island Oyster Company in the Ferry Building and endured a multi-coursed San Francisco-meets-Morocco meal at Aziza. All of this amidst the mixture of cocktails and spirits entering the body. I had a fantastic weekend but there was nothing more I craved than a simple, homey meal with my wife. For us, there is nothing more comforting than a simple pan-roasted fish over farmer’s market veggies and some sort of broth. I was inspired by a fantastic meal I had at Pujol in Mexico City and since then have done numerous variations of fish-in-broth dishes. Jeni picked up some tutti frutti heirloom tomatoes (so sweet), pea sprouts and some fresh wild-striped bass from McCall’s and I hit the kitchen stove – with a glass of wine of course. Never cook without a glass of wine in hand, it’s a naked feeling!
If you haven’t had striped bass before, the texture is chunky yet moist. When you break the flesh with your fork, it will come off in sections which makes it a perfect bite every time. This dish on paper is as simple as it sounds but the magic happens when you add a special ingredient: yuzu kosho. My current love has been Shin Sen Gumi’s imported yuzu kosho that they sell for $7 from some company in Japan. And it is the best yuzu kosho I have tasted, of all the seven plus kinds I’ve tried. Ask Jonathan Gold, he’ll give you the golden nod. Yuzu kosho is a Japanese condiment made of chili peppers, yuzu peels and salt. The addition of yuzu kosho brings about a spicy citrus state that will surely open your eyeballs, but it should only be used in moderation as it can and will overpower your food. Maybe even a third world country.
Ingredients for 2 servings
2 square pieces of wild-striped bass (about 4-5 oz. is a good serving)
small heirloom tomatoes
olive oil + vegetable oil
Ingredients for broth
tsuyu (Japanese soup broth sauce or noodle dipping sauce; any kind)
hon-dashi (Japanese bonito fish stock powder)
(1) Making the dashi stock. Add about 2.5 cups of water, or more if you want to drink more broth, into a pot and set on high heat. Immediately add a 2″ x 2″ piece of kombu (dried seaweed) and tsuyu dipping sauce to taste. Once you have the right amount of salinity, add 2 tablespoons of hon-dashi fish stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add about 1-2 teaspoons of yuzu kosho into the broth. Does it taste good? Did your eyeballs widen? If not, add more. The result should be a nice balance of tsuyu, bonito flavor and subtle yuzu kosho. The longer you simmer, the more the water will evaporate resulting in a salty dashi stock – not good. Before you’re ready to serve, check the salinity and add water if necessary.
(2) Getting the vegetables ready. Heat up a skillet for a good 5 mins until the pan is smoking When you’re ready, add the pea sprouts in season with salt & pepper. The reason you cook on such high heat is to get what the Chinese call “wok hei” (breath of a wok). When food is cooked at extremely high temperatures, there is a different taste in the food as the flavors are more so sealed rather than let out. Before you finish the pea sprouts, add 2 tablespoons of your dashi broth in there to add some extra flavoring, and quickly put on a plate. Sauté the heirloom tomatoes the same way with 2 shots of dashi broth at the end. Set both vegetables aside for service.
(3) Put a cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium heat and turn your oven on at 450 degrees. I normally keep my skillets on high heat for a good 8-10 mins before I sear meat but in the case of fish, you don’t want to obliterate the precious skin of bass. So medium for 3-5 mins is good. Add half vegetable oil and half olive oil into the pan. The second it starts to smoke, carefully lay the pieces of fish away from you to avoid the splashing of oil. Make sure you’ve added salt & pepper on both sides of the bass. Sear for 4-5 mins on medium heat and keep checking to see that your skin isn’t burnt – it should be a dark golden brown, but not black. Once the skin is crispy, carefully flip them over (I use tongs) and throw the whole skillet into the center of the oven. In about 3 mins, your fish should be done.
(4) Add a heap of the pea sprouts in the center of a bowl. Sprinkle in some heirloom tomatoes. Add as much broth as you’d like but don’t drown the veggies! You want to form an “island” for the fish to rest on as you want to maintain the crispiness in the bass skin. Add the bass on top, garnish with chopped chives and throw the whole plate back into the oven for about 3 mins for service. Your dish must come out hot to be fully enjoyed.
Enjoy and thanks for reading.