SEPTEMBER 16, 2013

MEET THE SOUS CHEF

CHAD RICHARD, SOUS CHEF, THE OPTIMIST

Cooking fish at home doesn't intimidate Chad Richard. Maybe that's because Richard, sous chef at The Optimist in Atlanta, grew up on St. Simons Island, off the coast of Georgia, and was weaned on seafood.

After learning his technique for foolproof fillets, we're putting his recipe for Striped Bass with Salsa Verde in regular rotation. Richard starts the fish fillets in a pan on the stovetop, then transfers the pan to the floor of the oven. Those fearful of flipping fish, take note: Richard's method skips nerve-racking flips entirely. Check out the recipe and more of his fishy tricks.


Angie Mosier
MAKE THE
Striped Bass with Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Striped Bass with Tomatillo Salsa Verde

YIELD

2 servings (plus 1½ cups salsa verde)

TIME

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: 45 minutes

Total: 1 hour, 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

Striped Bass

Striped bass, two 6-ounce skin-on fillets

Kosher salt, ½ teaspoon

Freshly ground black pepper, ¼ teaspoon

Extra-virgin olive oil, 2 teaspoons

Unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon

Fresh mint sprigs, 2

Salsa Verde

Tomatillos, ⅔ pound (husked, rinsed and quartered)

Medium garlic cloves, 4 (smashed)

Serrano chiles, 3 (stemmed and halved lengthwise; seeds removed for less heat)

Poblano chile, 1 (stemmed, cored, seeded and quartered)

Small white onion, 1 (quartered)

Fresh cilantro, 1 small bunch (leaves picked from stems, stems reserved)

Kosher salt, ½ teaspoon

Freshly ground black pepper, ¼ teaspoon

Whole coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon

Limes, 2 (juiced)

DIRECTIONS

1. Season the striped bass: On a large plate, place the:

  • Striped bass fillets

Sprinkle with the:

  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Leave the fish at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the salsa verde: Preheat the oven to 400°. To a large bowl, add the:

  • Quartered tomatillos
  • Smashed garlic cloves
  • Halved serrano chiles
  • Quartered poblano chile
  • Quartered white onion
  • Reserved cilantro stems
  • ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Use your hands to toss the mixture to combine, then transfer the mixture to a parchment paper-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast the vegetables until they are charred and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool to room temperature.

To a small skillet set over medium heat, add the:

  • Coriander seeds

Cook the coriander seeds, shaking the skillet often, until the seeds are golden and fragrant, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the toasted coriander seeds to a small plate to cool.

To an immersion blending pitcher (or a blender jar), add the toasted coriander seeds and the cooled tomatillo mixture. Add the:

  • Cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons of the lime juice

Blend (we recommend using the KitchenAid® Pro Line® Series Hand Blender) until smooth. Taste and adjust with more salt or lime juice if needed.

2. Cook the fish: Heat a medium cast-iron or oven safe skillet over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. To the skillet, add the:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Set the seasoned striped bass fillets in the skillet skin side down. Cook for 1 minute, then use a fish spatula or metal spatula to press down on the fillets to flatten them and ensure that the entire surface area of the skin comes into contact with the hot skillet, about 1 minute longer.

Transfer the skillet to the bottom of the hot oven (not the oven rack, but the actual floor of the oven). Cook until the center portion of the fish resists light pressure and the fillets are opaque from top to bottom, 12 to 14 minutes (if the skin looks like it is getting too dark, move the skillet to the lowest oven rack).

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and return it to a burner. To the skillet (leave the burner off), add the:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Mint sprigs

Use a metal spoon to baste the fish with the butter and mint as it melts. Use a spatula to transfer the fish fillets to each of 2 plates (discard the mint sprigs). Drizzle the fish with the salsa verde and top with a radish-pepita salad, if making.

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STEP BY STEP

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TIPS & TECHNIQUES

The Dish on Fish

Some chefs advise cooking fish in a screaming-hot pan. Not Richard. He suggests cooking fillets over medium-low heat, skin side down. "Moderate heat prevents the skin from seizing up, which causes the fillet to curl and lose contact with the pan," he explains, "resulting in soggy skin."

Roast with the Most

To boost the flavor of his salsa verde, Richard roasts the tomatillos, chiles, onion and garlic until slightly charred, then blends them with fresh cilantro and lime juice to make a vibrant condiment (it's also great as a dip for tortilla chips or as a topping for grilled chicken or pork).

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GET OUTFITTED FOR THIS RECIPE

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The first image in a slideshow demo.

  1. KitchenAid's Pro Line® Cordless Immersion Blender, makes short work of the job.

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