Crusted Black Sea Bass w/ Banyuls Broth

“This is my all-time favorite fish dish,” says Nicholas Harary, co-owner and executive chef of Restaurant Nicholas in Red Bank. “It is fairly easy to prepare and packed with flavor. Banyuls vinegar can be found at most high-end food stores. The bass is cooked with the skin on, which will take some technique and finesse.”

Photo by Steve Legato.

Serves: 8

Special equipment: electric coffee/spice grinder

Banyuls Broth
2½ pounds white button mushrooms, washed and thinly sliced
¼ cup honey
¼ cup light soy sauce
¼ cup Banyuls vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
1 quart water
3 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper

In a saucepot, sauté mushrooms in the butter over medium-high heat. The mushrooms are done when most of the moisture cooks out and they reach a golden brown color.

Combine the mushrooms with the remaining ingredients. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 45 minutes. Strain through a chinois and discard mushrooms. Adjust the seasoning with salt, if needed, and reserve.

Spice Mix
4 ounces almonds, toasted
4 ounces hazelnuts, toasted
4 ounces coriander seeds, toasted
4 ounces sesame seeds, toasted
1 ounce black pepper

Grind all ingredients separately in the coffee/spice grinder. Mix together.


8 skin-on black bass fillets (approximately 6 ounces each)
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup Wondra flour
¼ cup Brown Butter (see page 226)
¼ cup fresh oregano, chopped
¼ cup tarragon, chopped
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper

Season the flesh side of each fillet with salt and pepper. With a pastry brush, baste the flesh side with heavy cream, then dip it into the spice mixture. It is important not to get any of the spice mixture on the skin side. Sprinkle flour on the skin side, and shake off any excess.

Heat a sauté pan on medium-high heat and add the grapeseed oil. When the oil is hot, place the fillets in the pan, skin-side down. Do not overcrowd the pan. If necessary, use two pans or cook in batches. The fillets will start to curl. With a spatula, gently press the fish down into the pan until the fillets eventually relax. Cook the fillets until the skin is crispy and golden brown. Turn them over and cook on low heat for an additional 2 minutes.

While the fillets are cooking, bring the Banyuls Broth up to a boil and whisk in the Brown Butter. When the butter is melted, stir in the herbs.

Serve each fillet with a half cup of the finished broth. In the restaurant, this dish is accompanied by cherry tomatoes, salsify and haricot verts.

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