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Pan Roasted White Bass with Wine-Butter Sauce

Pan Roasted White Bass with Wine-Butter Sauce


When I'm in Boston for a business meeting I often try to swing by the Super 88 Asian market in the South Bay Center in Dorchester, for Asian staples of course but also for their fish market: a sixty-foot counter with fresh fish -- usually as many as 50 varieties -- arrayed on a bed of ice. They also have live tanks for lobsters, crabs and some varieties of fish. A fish market like this is essential if you're going to make a good bouillabaisse, since the traditional bouillabaisse has a wide variety of fish types. And it's also essential if you like to cook and serve whole fish, since many fish markets and virtually no supermarkets never handle whole fish at all (they buy their fish "cut" from a fish processor).

Usually I steam a whole fish in the Chinese style, or grill it over charcoal, and for those methods I'm usually looking for a 2-1/2 - 3-1/2 pound fish. Hybrid striped bass, black bass, small salmon (all farmed) and many other varieties are available in this range. This week I had the idea that I'd like to pan roast some smaller fish, in the Italian manner with garlic, herbs and olive oil, to serve individually, so I selected a couple of one pound white bass. White bass is a freshwater cousin of my favorite wild saltwater fish, the striped bass (the two are cross-bred to produce the freshwater-farmed hybrid striped bass), and as far as I've been able to find out it's only available wild-caught.

I served the pan roasted bass with an herbed rice and a salad of rocket and tomatoes. The bass was sweet and fresh-tasting and worked well with the sauce, and the rice was a good pairing. Since this preparation is quick and easy it's perfect for a change-of-pace midweek supper. The almost universally available farm-raised trout also works well prepared this way, and popular because they are less bony, although some say the flavor of the farmed trout is bland (adjust cooking time as discussed below).

Pan Roasted White Bass with Wine-Butter Sauce

2 white bass or other whole firm-fleshed fish, about 1 lb each* (scaled and gutted)
6 large cloves garlic, peeled, cut in thirds
2 T olive oil
1 C flour
2 T fresh oregano, chopped
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1 C white wine
1 T butter
2 T lemon juice
lemon slices for garnish

Wash fish and pat dry. Spread flour on a plate. Salt the fish and then dredge in flour, coating entirely. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.

Heat olive oil over high heat in a sauté pan large enough to hold both fish without crowding. When the oil is very hot but not yet smoking, add garlic and toss the garlic around for a minute. Place fish in the pan and brown 1-1/2 minutes on each side. Lower heat to medium, cover and roast for about 10 minutes, turning the fish once. Remove to a warmed side plate. (Note that the 10 minute cooking time is for fish about 1" thick at its thickest part. For thinner or thicker fish adjust the time accordingly.)

Add wine, raise heat to high and quickly reduce to a syrupy consistency, scraping all around the pan to loosen browned bits clinging to the pot. Add the butter and swirl to melt and blend. Correct seasoning and pour sauce over fish. Garnish with additional oregano and lemon slices.
* About the size of whole fish: when buying whole fish the usual practice is to weigh and price it before cleaning, so a "one-pound" fish will actually weigh around 12 - 13 ounces after cleaning. I like to see the whole fish on the plate so I cook them with the head and tail, which are mostly inedible. After head, tail and bones are removed the actual yield from a whole fish is about 1/2 or less of its scale weight before cleaning. A one-pound fish therefore yields about 6-8 ounces of meat on the plate, which is a generous individual serving. Cleaned whole trout are in the 8- 12 ounce range, with head and tail, and yield a generous individual serving.


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Yum! I have to try cooking fish this way. I don't usually coat in flour, but I do have to use a non-stick or cast iron pan. If you coat it, can you use a steinless steel pan?

One of my problems is that I don't have a pan large enough to fit fish with head and tail, so I usually grill or broil. I bet pan searing does a better job at browning the skin. Your picture looks awfully delicious :)

I'm going to look for some white trout and try this!


My wife is doing this even as we speak. I have no idea what the results will be, but will assure her that this is the best fish ever. Staying out of the "dog house" is important.

looking forward to trying this recipe. looks easy to prepare and i like the taste of white bass. i noticed the oregano is only used for garnish. is there a reason why you didn't cook the fish with the oregano? what's the best way to include herb when you pan roast whole fish?

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