A superb sweet, white, textured fish, sea bass is a popular feature of menus. It is caught in the North Atlantic, from Norway to Senegal. It closely resembles sea bream in flavour.
Sea bass is available whole and un-gutted, or in prepared fillets (you can ask your fishmonger to gut and fillet the fish for you). The skin is rarely removed. Sea bass is available frozen but is certainly at its best when fresh.
The popularity of sea bass has threatened stocks in some areas and, like many other fish, sea bass is subject to a minimum landing size (it must have grown to a certain length before it can be legally caught). It is farmed extensively in the Mediterranean, which has kept the price low. Sea bass is available farmed all year round. Buy wild sea bass from August to March.
Whole sea bass have sharp spines and a thick jacket of scales that need to be removed prior to cooking. Once the scales have been removed, the skin can be left attached. Fillets require pin-boning. Sea bass has such a good flavour that it requires only simple cooking. Classic recipes include branzino, a dish typical of Northern Italy where the fish is cooked in a salt crust. Sea bass is excellent grilled, baked and cooked ‘en papilotte’. The cheeks are also considered a delicacy.
Article by CJ Jackson