Going through my regular Saturday morning routine of the farmers' market for produce, Italian deli for bread and Santa Monica Seafood for seafood (duh!), I found myself getting embarrassingly giddy over my prospects for dinner. Big food nerd, I know! We had ordered a delicious whole fried Sea Bass smothered with fried garlic bits at Jitlada. The garlic was fried to a deep, dark golden brown. A second longer in the oil and they would have been bitter, but at this point they were perfection. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Mmm… so good! I wanted to make a rendition of this at home, but frying a whole fish at home was out of the question. Too much oil equals too big of a mess to clean up. Besides the scent of fried fish would linger in the air for days. I decided that I would cook my whole Branzino (aka Loup de mer) en papillote (encased in parchment). It would steam and bake at the same time. How healthy of me right?
I rubbed the outside with a mix of turmeric, toasted coriander, mustard seeds and sea salt. I stuffed the cavity with ginger, garlic and fresh cilantro. After wrapping it up in parchment, I popped it in the oven along with some fresh peanuts (also snagged from the farmers' market). I thought these would be fun served alongside the fish. Interactive eating creates a fun relaxed dining atmosphere.
I fried some thinly sliced shallots and garlic. Don't make the same mistake as me. Use a big pot. The shallots and garlic hold a lot of moisture which causes the oil to bubble up – or over in my case. I was also thrilled to served it with a bunch of tatsoi for a fresh counterpart to all the assertive spices. I couldn't pass up these guys with their delicately curved, spoon-like leaves. Every meal needs a little green.
Lots of aggressive spices, tempered by the mild white flesh of the Branzino left a little heat in your mouth. Now crack open a few peanut shells to enjoy some freshly, roasted peanuts. Have a bite of tatsoi to refresh your palate. Now repeat as needed.