A continuing series on weekly meals that use sustainable, organic, local and ethical food during the challenging winter months. For more information, go here to the DDC section of Not Dabbling in Normal’s website: Dark Days Challenge
What a catch! When my husband came back from the shore with a couple of just-caught fish, I decided once again to make fish the centerpiece of my weekly meal for the Dark Days challenge to eat locally. One of the fish was a small, whole sea bass, which we filleted for this meal, reserving the head and frame for fish stock that will become the basis of a future chowder. Even though we can purchase great fish from faraway places, I am enjoying the discovery of what we can get from more local sources. The filets were small, so I folded them end to end around braised local sustainably raised leeks (which I luckily stockpiled before Thanksgiving). Tied with twine, the little bundles cooked gently on top of the stove in no time flat.
Braised leeks are very versatile and offer a clean and complementary taste that did not overwhelm the delicate fish. I added a couple of leftover fennel fronds and the leaves of a small sprig of tarragon from my garden that I preserved in vinegar last summer. The vinegar that had infused the leaves offered a special spark to the leeks. I served the fish on top of mashed local organic potatoes with chard that added so much moisture and flavor that I didn’t need any cream or other seasonings.
After slicing the white and light green section of the leeks vertically and washing them to remove any sand, slice them crosswise into half-moons. Heat a small amount of butter or oil or a combination (I used my new favorite butternut squash seed oil) in a pan over low heat. Add the leeks and stir to coat and slightly tenderize them. Add a little water (or chicken stock if you’re serving the leeks with a chicken dish) and cook, covered, over low heat until they are very tender but still holding their shape. Season to taste with salt, pepper and/or herbs.
Sea Bass Filets Stuffed with Leeks
To serve two, take two small bass filets and place them skin-side down on a plate. Spoon 2-3 tbsp of braised leeks on one end, fold the other end over and tie with kitchen twine. (If using a larger filet, one will suffice. Just quarter it into pieces that can stack on top of each other.) Heat a little butter or oil or a combination of the two in a skillet over medium heat. Place the filets in the pan and cook for a few minutes, until the lower portion of the fish starts to turn opaque. Carefully turn the fish and cook until both sides of the filet are cooked through.