Pan fried sea bass with salsa verde is an easy, quick but delicious dish. Impressive enough for a special occasion but equally ideal for a quick mid-week dinner.
We are lucky enough to have two really good fish markets/shops round the corner from us. So with only a few exceptions, we make use of them weekly although what we get can be limited. Sadly, my getting-more-fussy toddler will generally only eat salmon (and then, if I make them in to fishcakes), sole or lobster. Quite the palate, I know.
However sometimes I get a piece of sole for him and something else for us, and for New Year that’s exactly what I did. Our local fish shop had some great-looking striped bass fillets so I decided to make a simple but tasty favorite: sea bass with salsa verde.
And by salsa verde, I don’t mean what you might have on tacos, I’m talking the Italian kind.
What’s the difference between a Mexican salsa verde and Italian salsa verde?
Salsa verde literally means ‘green sauce’ and has a few variations. In Mexico, salsa verde is more commonly means a spicy green sauce made with green chilis, tomatillo, garlic and cilantro.
An Italian salsa verde is a simple mix of fresh herbs (typically at least parsley), capers, anchovies, lemon, garlic, olive oil and mustard. The herbs can vary a little here and there, but otherwise it’s much the same. It’s commonly served with fish, but also goes with many vegetables (such as in my roasted cauliflower steaks with salsa verde).
This sauce is best made not too long in advance of when you use it, but it will keep a couple days refrigerated. It just tends to lose the vibrant color, although it will keep a bit better with a little extra oil over the top. You can mix things in a small food processor, but I prefer the traditional hand chopped version.
The sauce pairs well with various fish, particularly white, but for me pan-fried sea bass with salsa verde is one of the best.
Cooking the bass
You could bake the fish in the oven, but I prefer to pan-fry it as it’s quick and tasty. It’s easy to do -the hardest thing about it is to not be too tempted to turn it. You will see the fish cooking from the outside in and you want it to be cooked pretty well through before you turn it. That way, the skin will get nice and crisp. It is usually worth then turning it back on to the skin for a minute to re-crisp at the end as well.
In some cases, the skin is just a bit too thin or the pan just doesn’t like releasing (especially if it’s not non-stick) and you lose the skin, but it’s worth trying as the crisp skin is tasty. You just have to try to strike a balance with not over-cooking it as well. I think it helps to keep the heat medium rather than too high and just keep an eye on it.
See how easy everything is in this short video:
You can serve this with various sides, but I’d recommend keeping it pretty simple as the sauce has plenty flavor. Potatoes work really well with the salsa, and green vegetables like broccoli or beans work well too.
While this sea bass with salsa verde can seem like quite an extravagant, restaurant-like meal, it is really quick to make and so is very doable on a week night. It’s a delicious mix of flavors, and a great way to make something special out of simple ingredients. It hardly gets better.
Salsa verde is the perfect accompaniment to pan fried fish - delicious, fresh flavors.
- 1 handful parsley large
- 3 anchovy fillets or 2 if bigger
- 1 tsp capers
- 1 clove garlic small
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- few grinds of pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tbsp butter a knob
- 2 sea bass fillets
Remove the parsley leaves from the stalks. Put the parsley, anchovy fillets, capers and garlic on a chopping board and chop all together so that everything is cut up finely and starts to mix.
Transfer the mixture to a small bowl and add the lemon juice, a few grinds of pepper and the olive oil. Mix all together and refrigerate until ready to use (will keep a few hours well, a day or two not bad but not as bright colors).
Get a skillet/frying pan hot over a medium heat and add the butter.
Swirl the butter round a little so it covers all the pan then add the bass fillets, skin sound down.
Allow the fish to cook most of the way through - you will see it cook from the outside in.
When the fish is still a bit uncooked in the middle, carefully turn it over. Cook for a couple more minutes, turn back to skin side down for a minute then serve.
Stir the salsa and serve with the fish. Sides as you prefer but greens such as green beans and potatoes or salad work well.
(see video above)
Note the salsa verde can be made with other herbs as well, but I would always include a decent amount of parsley and keep the other herbs relatively mild/complementary eg basil, dill, tarragon.
Try these other seafood mains:
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