Sea bass cured in kelp, saikyo miso beurre blanc, fiddlehead fern

This course is built to showcase a fascinating Japanese technique I learned called kobujime, where fish is sandwiched between layers of salted kombu seaweed, in order to draw a bit of moisture out of the fish and enhance its umami flavor; in this way it is a version of curing. This preparation is often used in sushi restaurants for fish served raw, but I chose to cook the fish for this dish and serve it with a miso/butter sauce and seasonal vegetables.

"Beurre blanc" literally translates to "white butter" and is a classic French emulsified butter sauce made with a reduction of white wine and/or vinegar. My version doesn't drift too much from classic technique but includes a bit of saikyo miso, aka Kyoto sweet miso, to add a bit of sweetness and complexity. The fish/beurre blanc combination should pair well with just about any seasonal vegetable. I've tried white asparagus + maitake mushroom to great success, and used fiddlehead ferns for this preparation at the end of spring. Similarly you could substitute a wide variety of pickled vegetables to add a bit of acidity and crunch.

I found cooking temperature to be the main challenge for this dish. Cooking the fish to 130F as written yielded flesh that was extremely flaky, to the point where it separated from the skin which was my original desired presentation and forced me to improvise; c'est la vie. In a perfect world I would try Modernist Cuisine's recommended temperature of 118-122F, however I only have one immersion circulator which presents a temperature challenge when cooking multiple proteins. I've found 129-130F to be an acceptable middle ground for things like fish and beef. My fillets were also on the thin side, and I've had better results using thicker cuts of fish.

2018 06 09+18.30.10

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For 4 servings.

For the sea bass kobu-jime:

1 sea bass, cut into fillets


For the saikyo miso beurre blanc:

30g shallot

160g white wine

35g saikyo miso

40g lemon juice

3g salt

100g butter

Xanthan gum

Chives, minced

For the fiddlehead ferns:

~120g fiddlehead ferns

~15g butter

For the pickled red onion:

50g water (100%)

50g rice vinegar (100%)

10g sugar (10%)

40g baby red onion, sliced into rings and separated

To serve:

Lemon balm leaves or other greens


  • Prepare the sea bass (24h in advance): Hydrate the kombu in a bowl of water until pliable, ~5m. Rinse off any excess slime and drain well. Place on a sheet of plastic wrap and season with salt. Place a fish fillet on top and cover with more kombu. Wrap tightly in the plastic wrap. Repeat with the other fillet. Vacuum pack. Cure 24h in the refrigerator.
  • Prepare the pickled red onion (24h in advance): Bring the water, rice vinegar, and sugar to a boil. Pour over the onion and let cool. Chill in the brine until needed.
  • Prep the fiddlehead ferns (up to 5h in advance): Vacuum pack the ferns with butter and a pinch of salt. Chill until needed.
  • Prep the miso beurre blanc (up to 5h in advance): Place the wine and shallot in a pot, bring to boil and reduce heavily until almost dry (the shallots should still have plenty of moisture). Chill until needed.
  • To serve: Remove and discard the kombu from the sea bass. Rinse and pat dry. Cut into portions. Vacuum pack. Cook sous vide for 30m at 130F. Drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, steam the fiddlehead ferns in the bag for 12m; drain on paper towels. Drain the pickled onions on paper towels. Melt the butter in a small pot. Combine beurre blanc reduction mixture, saikyo miso, lemon juice and salt in a container. Gradually blend in the butter. Weigh and set at 100%; blend in 0.2% xanthan gum (or just eyeball a small bump). Stir in the minced chives. Adjust seasoning and keep warm. Add the fish to the plate. Spoon some sauce over the fish. Top with the fiddlehead ferns, the pickled red onions, and the lemon balm.

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