Saturday, March 25, 2006

IMBB24: 30 minute toothfish that requires no teeth

Before I get into the theme of my virgin IMBB entry, let me first confess that I am a devoted fan of slow cooking. Nothing heals the soul or repairs the spirit quite like a house permeated with the smell of something simmering on the stove for hours. It’s a kind of cooking performed only when the cook has the luxury of time and liberty of space. It’s the kind of cooking that nurtures and loves. I try to cook like that at least once a week, even if it’s just for me. If I start in a good mood, the simmering enhances that happiness and I hum through the whole thing. If a few tears happen to fall into the pot, the simmering invariably evaporates them and the steam never fails to clear the sinuses.

Unfortunately, slow cooking is not for everyday. Most days of the week, I am forced to revise what to put on the table to ensure that I could devote more hours of the day to the financing of what’s put on the table. While the time spent on cooking is often compromised, good result is not. My go to ingredient on busy nights is the one that doesn’t perform well in slow cooking – a fine fleshed fish.

My choice for this IMBB entry is the king of fine fleshed fish, Chilean sea bass. This fish has had my wholehearted devotion since that initial fateful bite four years ago. Despite this self-proclaimed love, I recently discovered that there is much about this fish unknown to me. Specifically, I was completely surprised to learn that Chilean sea bass is not a sea bass at all, but a deep-water species known as toothfish. The toothfish took on the name Chilean sea bass only because it was first marketed in the United States by the Chileans and its flesh resembled that of a sea bass. In my opinion, this resemblance ended at the seafood counter. When cooked to the right doneness, the toothfish tastes far richer and creamier without any assistance than the sea bass, which generally benefits from a sauce of butter or cream. For that reason alone, the toothfish is worthy of its premium price and king status. Also for that reason, I like to poach my toothfish gently in a brothy red sauce to preserve the natural creaminess and ensure that I don’t have to use teeth on this fish. Try it and you will be amazed by how beautifully the butteriness of the fish compliments the tartness and slight spiciness of the vibrant broth. Making things even more perfect, you will only have one pot to wash.

Chilean Sea Bass Poached in Garlicky Tomato Sauce
Adapted from a baked sea bass recipe in Bon App├ętit, September 1997
2 servings

1T olive oil
1 cup sliced onions
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 two ounce can of anchovies (use half if you think the flavor is too strong)
2T minced garlic
¼ t dried crushed red pepper
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes (drained)
1 cup of dry white wine
1 t of chicken essence (optional)
salt and pepper
2 Chilean sea bass fillets (about 1 inch thick)

1. Heat the olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet with lid that is large enough to hold the liquid and fish without overlapping. Break down the anchovies in the skillet until only a paste remain. Add the red pepper, garlic, and onion and cook until the onion is softened, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Stir in the drained diced tomatoes, parsley, and white wine. Stir in the chicken essence if you are using. This will make the broth saltier and a bit more robust. You can simply use a bit of salt if you don’t’ have chicken essence. Bring to a boil for a couple of minutes and turn down to medium low heat so the broth is barely simmering.

3. Place the fish in the broth and spoon broth over to cover. Put the lid on the skillet and let fish poach for between 6-12 minutes. Make sure your broth is not bubbling too hard and check the fish after 6 minutes to make sure that you don’t overcook. As soon as the fish is opaque throughout, transfer the fish to plates.

4. Boil the broth down a bit, about 2 minutes. Season broth to taste with salt and pepper and spoon over fish to serve.

I like to serve the fish with sides of oven roasted tomatoes and sweet peppers. To prepare, you simply coat the tomatoes and peppers in a bit of olive oil, sea salt, and pepper on a baking sheet and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven until the tomato skins burse open and the peppers are deflated. It should take about 25 minutes. If you put them in the oven before you start the fish recipe, you will have both for the table around the same time.
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Kalyn said...

This does sound like a wonderful meal.

Beth - Zen Foodism said...

Delicious and healthy... perfect! :)

Marilyn said...

Looks wonderful. I'm enjoying my first visit to your blog.

vivek the seeker said...


Chloe said...

hi Cathy!
Thanks for stopping by my blog.
Your tart from the previous post inspired me to make one today too. Thanks! I'm going to post the results.

Stevi said...

oh that was Stevi from
Chloe is my name in Blogger!

Helen said...

Hi Cathy,

When did you graduate from CMU and what did you study? I was a CS major, class of '99. As far as I know, you are the first CMU person who discovered my blog :)

Your recipe sounds fantastic! I do agree that patagonian toothfish the king of all fish. Another fish with similar texture and flavor that you might want to try is sable (also known as black cod in some fish markets).

Can't wait to explore more of your blog.


Ruth said...

So glad you visited my blog. It gave me a chance to drop by yours.

I too love slowly roasted or stewed dishes. There is nothing quite like them. I particularly love the reaction when my family walks in the door.

Your recipe for toothfish is awesome. Can't wait to try it. I've bookmarked the page!

Thanks for sharing.

Jenny said...

What a lovely recipe. I'd really appreciate some alternatives to chilean seabass being as it is virtually extinct. Thanks