Chefs Robert Del Grande
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Black Sea Bass with Chilcostle Chile Sauce, Braised Leeks, Fennel and Garlic

Adapted from Robert Del Grande

Yield: 4 servings

4 skin-on fillets of Atlantic Black Sea Bass or Farm-Raised Striped Bass
Olive oil for cooking

Fish Stock

2 Tablespoons butter
1/2 white onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
4 cloves garlic
3 cups water
About 3 pounds fresh fish bones

Chilcostle Sauce

2 chilcostle chiles, stems and seeds removed
1/2 large white onion, roughly chopped
6 cloves garlic, whole
1 large tomato, chopped
1/4 small fennel bulb, chopped
A few saffron threads (optional)
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small hoja santa leaf (If hoja santa is not available, tarragon or any other anise flavored herb may be substituted.)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt to taste

Braised Leeks, Fennel and Garlic

4 large leeks (with white sections 2 to 3 inches long)
3/4 bulb fennel, cut into small cubes
12 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Tablespoons butter (for reheating)
1 teaspoon salt
Tarragon sprigs
Coarse sea salt

For the Black Sea Bass, remove any small bones from the fillets. Refrigerate the fillets until ready.

To prepare the Fish Stock, in a wide mouth skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the chopped vegetables until very lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add the fish bones and sauté over very low heat, turning the bones very gently. Cover the skillet and allow the bones to gently steam for about 5 to 10 minutes. Add water. Bring to a near boil and then gently simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain the stock and reserve.

For the Braised Leeks, Fennel and Garlic, with a knife, separate the white section of the leeks from the tough green leaves. The white section should be approximately 3 to 4 inches long. Trim the root end. Discard the tough green ends. Split the white sections lengthwise and wash to remove any dirt. Tie each half of leek with a piece of string to prevent from coming apart while braising. Place the leeks in a single layer in a broad skillet. Distribute the cubes of fennel and garlic cloves over the leeks. Add approximately 4 cups of water (enough to cover the leeks) and salt. Bring the water to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, loosely covered for approximately 20 minutes or until the leeks are tender. With a slotted spoon, remove the leeks, fennel and garlic from the water and allow to cool.

For the Chilcostle Sauce, cut or tear the Chilcostle chile into rough pieces. Melt the butter in a sauce skillet over medium heat. Add all ingredients (except for the hoja santa and cream) and sauté slowly over low heat, stirring frequently. Do not brown the ingredients but allow the tomatoes to stew. Cook until all of the liquid has evaporated. Add 2 cups fish stock. Add the hoja santa leaf. Simmer until the ingredients are soft, about 15 minutes. Add the 1/2 cup heavy cream and simmer an additional 10 minutes. Remove the hoja santa leaf. Allow the mixture to cool. When cool, purée the ingredients in a blender until smooth. Strain the sauce through a sieve to remove any unprocessed pieces. Adjust salt and pepper. When ready to serve, gently reheat the sauce. Do not boil.

To sauté the Black Sea Bass, heat a little olive oil in a skillet (preferably non-stick) over high heat. Sauté the fillets of bass skin side down until the skin is crisp. Turn the fillets over and lower the heat and finish cooking the fish.

To warm the Braised Leeks, Fennel and Garlic, return the braised leeks and the fennel and garlic to a broad skillet. Add the butter and warm the leek mixture over medium heat. Cut and remove the strings from the leeks. Salt to taste.

To serve, place two pieces of leek in the center of each plate. Spoon some of the garlic cloves and fennel cubes over the leeks. Place a fillet of bass over the leeks. Spoon some sauce around the bass. Sprinkle the skin of the bass with a little coarse sea salt and tarragon sprigs.

Wine Suggestion

Chardonnay (with not too much wood)