25 Jul 2018
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.
For 4 servings.
1 sea bass, cut into fillets
160g white wine
35g saikyo miso
40g lemon juice
~120g fiddlehead ferns
50g water (100%)
50g rice vinegar (100%)
10g sugar (10%)
40g baby red onion, sliced into rings and separated
Lemon balm leaves or other greens