Friday, November 16, 2012

Baked Bass with Spicy Rub

I woke up from a nap last weekend and decided that I was in the mood for seafood.  We have been really vegetable and meat-oriented in our kitchen recently and there hasn't been much seafood in the apartment.  Actually, even our dinners out at restaurants have been very meat and vegetable-oriented.  I am going to try to remedy that for the rest of the year, but I'm not going to make any promises because we all know how well I live up to my blog promises...  I have a shrimp recipe that I want to try (maybe we will get around to that one tonight) and I really want to cook some more fish.  We also cooked some swordfish earlier this week that I have yet to post so stay tuned for that recipe.  Actually, if we make the shrimp this weekend I will consider my blog promise to have been fulfilled - three seafood recipes in one blog week is pretty huge around here.  And given that next week is Thanksgiving I'm not sure how much seafood I am going to be able to squeeze into my diet amidst all of that turkey and stuffing.  I do want to go out and have some nice sushi, but that is going to have to wait until after Thanksgiving.

This fish was really easy to make and pretty interesting.  It wasn't my favorite whole fish recipe ever because I didn't think that it had as much flavor as I had hoped for.  The spicy rub was surprisingly spicy from the black pepper, but I wish it had more lemongrass and cilantro flavor.  If I were to make it again I would cut back on the amount of black pepper and up the amount of the other aromatics.  I might also stuff some lime slices in the belly of the fish with the lemongrass.  Another problem with the dish was how many little bones the fish had - which isn't really a problem with the recipe but is a problem inherent with eating whole fish.

P.S.  I couldn't decide which picture was the least creepy of the bunch (and they were all pretty creepy) so I posted what I considered to be the two un-creepiest and most appetizing looking.  Because really, who doesn't love having fish eyeballs staring you in the eye while you eat?

Recipe after the jump!

Baked Bass with Spicy Rub
Hot Sour Salty Sweet:  A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia
By Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

2 1-1 1/2 lb gutted and scaled whole firm-fleshed fish (striped bass, lake trout, snapper or sea bass)
2 tbsp Peppercorn-Coriander Root Flavor Paste (see below)
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, smashed flat with the side of a cleaver and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 limes, cut into wedges
s&p (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (or light a grill over medium heat).

Wash the fish inside and out and wipe dry.  Make three shallow diagonal slashes on each side of each fish.  Put some flavor paste in each slit and smear the rest of the paste over the outside and a little on the inside of the fish.  Put the chopped lemongrass inside the fish.

Place 2 18-inch square pieces of heavy duty-aluminum foil side by side on your work surface.  If you have fresh or frozen banana leaves, use them.  Strip out the central rib of each leaf and lay one or more overlapping pieces of banana leaf on top of each piece of foil.  Lay one fish on each set of wrappings - diagonally of whichever way allows a complete wrap.  Wrap each fish firmly in the banana leaf, if using, then the foil, tucking in the ends as you roll it up to seal it well.

Bake fish on a baking sheet in the center of the oven for 30 minutes (or grill 15-20 minutes per side on a grill rack 5-6 inches from the flame).  The fish should be moist and tender.  Remove from the heat and place on one or two platters.  Serve with rice, lime wedges and, if desired, s&p.

Peppercorn-Coriander Root Flavor Paste
Hot Sour Salty Sweet:  A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia
By Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

2 tsp black peppercorns
5-6 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
3 tbsp coarsely chopped coriander roots
pinch of salt
1 tsp fish sauce

Place the peppercorns in a mortar with the garlic and pound to a paste.  Add the coriander roots and salt.  Pound to a smooth paste.  If you have a small blender/mini food processor you can use that instead.  Stir in fish sauce.

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