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The Fish Market

It's Sea Bass Time Again

June 26, 1986|ISAAC CRONIN and PAUL JOHNSON | Cronin and Johnson are co-authors of "The California Seafood Cookbook."

The white sea bass is found from San Francisco south to the Bay of Magdalena in Baja and in the northern Gulf of California. The fish appear off the coast of Mexico in late spring, and they occasionally find their way to California markets.

This month, the California sea bass season opened for three months. At this time, the supply should be consistent and the quality greatly improved over the Mexican fish, which takes considerably longer to reach the marketplace.

In recent years, sea bass has become a generic term for a number of dissimilar fish of varying qualities. More often than not, you may be served something other than genuine white sea bass when you order it in a restaurant. Often it's grouper. You're in for a treat if you try some California white sea bass.

Most Prized Drum

The white sea bass is the largest and most prized member of the drum family. This family of fish acquires its name for the loud drumming sound it produces when distressed or uses as a form of radar when in search of prey. Other popular members of the drum family are Louisiana redfish, the Atlantic coast sea trout and the California corvina.

When freshly caught, the white sea bass is steel blue above and silvery white on the lower sides and belly. The meat is moderately fatty, white and flaky with a fine texture. The largest fish on record is 84 pounds, but the average size is 15 to 40 pounds. This is a nice size for cutting, and this is often how the fish is sold. Fillets, roasts and whole or half fish are usually also available. White sea bass retains its moisture well, so it is ideal for charcoal grilling but takes equally well to baking, braising or frying.


1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/2 pint shucked oysters, with liquor

1/4 cup bread crumbs

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Salt, pepper

1 (2-pound) sea bass roast, cut crosswise, including backbone

Melt butter in skillet and saute garlic and shallot until shallot is translucent. Chop oysters in small pieces and add to skillet with liquor. Add bread crumbs and parsley. Saute gently until liquid is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow to cool before stuffing sea bass.

Stuff fish with mixture. Place in roasting pan and cover with foil. Bake at 400 degrees until done, about 20 minutes. Serve with stuffing. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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