Not your average bass

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This information comes from the July August 2001 issue of Cook’s Illustrated.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE BASS: Despite its name, the Chilean sea bass is not a member of the true bass family. Its scientific name is Dissostichus eleginoide, and until its recent popularity with chefs, it was better known by the common name Patagonian toothfish. It is a large slow-growing fish found in the cold, deep waters of the Southern Hemisphere and is actually more similar to the sablefish, or black cod, than the sea bass in terms of texture and cooking properties. When you see “sea bass” on a menu or in a fish market, the fish is likely to be one of several varieties of saltwater bass. Black Sea bass, pulled from the Atlantic, is the most common. During the summer, you may also see wild striped bass in many fish markets, especially in the Northeast. This fish has pinkish white flesh and is meaty and extremely tasty. (Don’t confuse farm striped bass with wild. Farmed striped bass is a cross between freshwater bass and wild striped bass and is not nearly as flavorful.) Because of differences in texture and fat content between the Chilean sea bass and “real” sea bass, recipes intended for one type of fish cannot be used for the other.
Chilean sea bass contains more than twice as much fat as farmed Atlantic salmon. That may sound like a lot, but it’s “good” fat, packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to be beneficial to coronary health. All that oil means the fish won’t dry out, so grilling it should be a simple proposition. I have found it is not. I have found that the, “Cook time” required for Chilean Sea Bass is much longer than regular fish on the grill. I was cooking 1-1/4-inch-thick pieces for eight minutes. I decided to start increasing the cooking time. At 10 minutes the fish was better but not perfect. At 12 minutes it began to taste right, but I was encountering another problem. The surface was burning. It was time to switch tracks and use a two-level fire.
Cook over hot fire for about 10 minutes and then place on a cooler fire for the next 3 to 6 minutes.

This marinade creates an especially thick, brown crust on the grilled fish. Do not marinate the fish longer than suggested or the flavor will become too strong.


  1. ¼ cup juice from 1 large orange

  2. 2 Tbs. soy sauce

  3. 1 Tbs. dry sherry

  4. 2 medium garlic cloves, minced

  5. 2 Tsp. minced fresh ginger

  6. Ground black pepper to taste

Combine orange juice, soy, sherry, garlic, and ginger in shallow dish just large enough to hold fish in single layer; place fish in marinade and turn to coat. Marinate 20 minutes, turning fish over after 10 minutes. Remove fish from marinade, sprinkle with pepper, and continue with recipe for Charcoal-or-Gas-grilled Chilean Sea Bass Fillets. (See Info Above)


Makes about 1-1/2 cups

Use only the segmented fruit in the relish, not the juices, which will water down the flavor and texture.


  1. 2 medium oranges, segmented (pith and membrane removed) and cut into ½-inch pieces

  2. 1 medium pink grapefruit, segmented (pith and membrane removed) and cut into ½-inch pieces

  3. ½ tsp. ground cumin

  4. ½ Tsp. paprika

  5. 10 Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped (about ¼ cup)

  6. 2 Tbs. minced fresh parsley leaves

  7. Cayenne Pepper

  8. Salt ant pepper to taste

Combine oranges, grapefruit, cumin, paprika, olives, parsley, cayenne, and salt to taste in medium nonreactive bowl. Serve relish at room temperature with grilled fish. (Can be covered and set aside up to 1 hours.)


The acidity of the tomatoes and lime juice complements the richness of the fish.


  1. 2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and diced small

  2. 2 Tbs. minced red onion

  3. 4 Tsp. juice from 1 lime

  4. 1 small fresh Serrano chili, stemmed, seeded, and minced

  5. 1 Tbs. minced fresh cilantro leaves

  6. Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine tomatoes, onion, lime juice, chili, cilantro, and salt to taste in medium bowl. Cover and set aside for 1 hour to allow flavors to blend. Serve salsa at room temperature with grilled fish. (Can be covered and set aside up to 3 hours.)

Serves 4

The marinade here is also wonderful on other oily fish, such as salmon; I vary it for red meat. (See below) the fish is best marinated for at least 12 hours, so plan accordingly.


  1. 1 cup sweet white (shiro) miso

  2. 3 tbs. dark brown sugar

  3. ¼ cup sake

  4. ¼ cup mirin or medium-dry sherry

  5. Four 6-ounces skinless Chilean sea bass fillets

  6. 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

In a small saucepan, mix the miso with the brown sugar, sake and mirin and bring to a simmer over moderate heat. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the marinade to a small bowl and let cool completely.
Spread one-third of the miso marinade in a glass-baking dish just large enough to hold the fish, in a single layer. Add the fish fillets, skinned side down, and spread the remaining marinade on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours up to 24 hours.
Light a grill or preheat the broiler. Scrape the marinade from the fish and pat the fillets dry with a paper towel.
Brush the fish with the olive oil. Grill the fish six inches from the heat for about 8 minutes, turning once, until just cooked through. Alternatively, arrange the fillets on a broiler pan, skinned side up, and broil three inches from the heat for 4 minutes. Turn the fillets and broil for 2 minutes longer or until just cooked through. Serve hot.
(**) NOTE: For a version of this marinade that is delicious with red meats---especially beef and lamb---simply replace half of the white miso with red miso or country-style barley miso. Use it as directed in the recipe and grill or broil the meat to the desired doneness.


Makes about 4 cups
I make this rich, earthy broth as a quick vegetarian alternative to meat stock. The dried porcini mushrooms, Madeira and miso give it a great deal of depth and body. It’s wonderful on its own or as soup with steamed or roasted baby root vegetables and a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs. Or use the broth to make gratins and pilafs and to sauce roasted or grilled veal or wild mushrooms.

  1. 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms (1 ounce)

  2. 6 cups hot water

  3. 1-1/2 Tsp. unsalted butter

  4. ½ Tsp. vegetable oil

  5. 4 shallots, coarsely chopped

  6. 1 garlic clove, smashed

  7. ½ cup Madeira

  8. 1 bay leaf

  9. 1 Tbs. sweet white (shiro) miso

  10. 1 Tbs. red (aka) miso or country-style barley miso

In a medium bowl, soak the porcini mushrooms in the hot water until softened, about 20 minutes. In a large saucepan, cook the butter over moderate heat until it smells like roasted nuts, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, shallots and garlic, cover and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until the shallots are light golden, about 5 minutes. Add the Madeira and boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
Add the porcini mushrooms to the saucepan and pour in their soaking liquid, stopping when you reach the grit at the bottom. Add the bay leaf and gently simmer the broth over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the white and red miso until well blended. Strain the broth through a fine sieve before serving or using.
Can be made and refrigerated for 3 days. Re-warm over moderate heat; do not boil.

Orange-miso vinaigrette

Makes about ¼ cup
Sweet white miso makes an excellent thickener for Western-style vinaigrettes, so you can use much less oil. In addition to serving this dressing on salad greens, try it on cooked green beans and raw vegetable salads such as shaved fresh fennel and celery root. This recipe can easily be doubled


  1. 2 Tbs. fresh orange juice

  2. 1 Tbs. aged sherry vinegar

  3. 2 Tsp. sweet white (shiro) miso

  4. ½ Tsp. minced shallot

  5. 1 Tbs. walnut oil

  6. Freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice with the vinegar, miso and shallot until smooth. Whisk in the walnut oil and season with pepper.
(**) Note the vinaigrette can be refrigerated in a glass jar for 3 days.


Serves 4

  1. 4 sun-dried tomato halves (not packed in oil)

  2. 8 Kalamata olives, pitted

  3. 2 Tbs. chopped red onion

  4. 2 Tbs. chopped fresh basil

  5. 1 tbs. chopped fresh parsley

  6. 1 large garlic clove

  7. 2 Tsp. red wine vinegar

  8. 1 Tsp. olive oil

  9. 4 –6 ounce sea bass fillets

Place sun-dried tomatoes in small bowl. Pour boiling water over to cover. Let stand until tomatoes are very soft, about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 4 tablespoons soaking liquid.
Transfer tomatoes to processor. Add olives, onion, chopped basil, parsley and garlic and chop finely. Add vinegar, oil and 2 tablespoons reserved tomato soaking liquid; blend until moist paste forms, adding more soaking liquid if mixture is too thick. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)
Prepare barbecue (medium-high hat) or preheat broiler. Sprinkle sea bass with salt and pepper. Grill or broil fish until opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side.
Transfer fish to plates. Top with spoonful of tapenade and serve.

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