Once the TV Food Network invited me, an hour before airtime, to be on the program In Food Today. “Sure,” I said, “no problem.” The producer asked me to demonstrate a dish that was uncomplicated, easy-to-prepare, and seasonal. It was the height of striped bass season, so by the time my cab reached their studio, I had decided that striped bass would be the focus of my ad-libbed recipe. Inside, I grabbed three of the first foods I saw: a lemon, a red onion, and a bunch of chives. My dish was done.
Yield: 4 Portions
2 red onions, peeled and halved along their equators
¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
4 skinless, boneless striped bass fillets, about 6 ounces each
Salt and ground pepper to taste
½ pound unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into small pieces
Zest of 2 lemons
Twelve 4-inch chive points (cut off the tip ends of 12 chives)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Place onions cut side up on baking sheet. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until onions collapse. Remove from oven when done and set aside.
3. Season fish fillets on both sides with salt and pepper. Wrap each fillet tightly in three layers of plastic wrap. Fill a 5-quart saucepan two-thirds of the way with hot water and bring to 160°F. (At 160°F, the water will be very steamy and small bubbles will appear near the sides of the pan.) Remove pot from heat and carefully lower fish into water. Let fish poach off heat for 20 minutes. Fish should be opaque throughout but moist.
4. Meanwhile prepare the lemon sauce: in a small saucepan over medium heat, bring 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Make a beurre fondue by introducing butter pieces gradually, whisking continuously to create a creamy emulsification. Remove pan from heat. Add lemon zest and swirl pan to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Center an onion half on each of 4 plates. Unwrap fish and place 1 fillet on each onion. Spoon lemon butter on top of fish. Garnish each plate with 3 chive points. If desired, serve any remaining sauce in a separate dish.