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Pan-seared Sea Bass with White Bean Ragout
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Trim the end from the Sea bass.
Score a shallow 'X' in the skin to prevent the fillet curling.
Sauté the fillets, skin side down, for 2 minutes.

Pan-seared Sea Bass with White Bean Ragout

Serves 6

If you want to spend an afternoon preparing a dish that will impress just about anyone, then this is a good place to start. Make sure you get the freshest sea bass, and handle it with great care. The recipe might seem complicated at first, but the procedures are actually very simple and you’ll find yourself enjoying making such a delicious and exciting dish.

Ingredients
  • 1 pound dry cannellini beans, soaked in water overnight
  • 1/2 cup pancetta, cut in large chunks
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large carrots, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 2 stalks celery, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1/4 cup chopped garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 bunches spinach, washed and stems removed
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cherry tomato vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pint ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 large basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

Sea Bass:

  • 6 8-ounce fillets of sea bass, scaled, skin left on
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and finely ground white pepper

Escarole:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 heads of escarole, outer leaves trimmed, each head cut into 6 wedges
Method
  1. Prepare the white bean ragout; discard the soaking water from the cannellini beans.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the pancetta. Add the drained cannellini beans and 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for about 45 minutes. Strain the beans reserving cooking liquid; discard the pancetta. Set aside.
  3. In a large saucepan, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Sauté the carrots, celery, red onion and garlic about 8 minutes or until onion is transparent.
  4. In a small bowl, blend the tomato paste with 1/2 cup of cold water. Add to the sautéed vegetables along with the reserved cannellini beans, bean cooking liquid and chicken stock. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes or until beans are tender and mixture has reduced by about one fourth. Stir in spinach and cook for about 3 minutes more or until spinach is wilted.
  5. Prepare the cherry tomato vinaigrette: In a large bowl whisk together the extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Stir in the cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and basil chiffonade. Set aside until ready to assemble dish.
  6. Prepare the sea bass: Pre-heat oven to 400° F. Brush the sea bass fillets with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and score a cross on the skin side of the fish with a sharp knife to help keep it from curling. Season with salt and white pepper. In a large, heavy skillet, over high heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté sea bass, skin-side down for 2 minutes. Transfer to a large, shallow baking dish and bake for about 5 to 6 minutes or until fish flakes when tested with a fork. To ensure a crispy skin, do not turn the fish.
  7. Prepare the escarole: In a clean, large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. Sauté the escarole for about 5 minutes or until wilted.
Presentation

Lay out 6 large, heated soup plates and ladle white bean ragout into each plate. Lay two wedges of escarole cross-wise on top of beans. With a metal spatula, carefully place one fillet of sea bass, skin-side up on top of the escarole in each plate. Spoon tomato vinaigrette across each fish fillet. Serve immediately.

Wine Recommendation:

You've made a wonderful dish with the sea bass. Now you need a wonderful wine. If you're feeling adventurous try a Viognier, like the Andrew Murray from Santa Barbara County, Pride Mountain - if you can find it, or Callera's amazing Viognier, with this dish. You’ll be amazed how much fruit and depth can exist in such a secret grape. Or if you'd like something more familiar grab a Kistler or Robert Mondavi Chardonnay or one of the big, oaky Chardonnays from Australia like Rosemount, Petaluma or Lindemans.
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