Baked Whole Black Sea Bass with Beet Greens Salsa – an easy and delicious baked fish recipe with step by step instructions for choosing and cooking whole fish.
My journey to eat fish was a long, arduous, and scary one, but recipes such as this roasted whole bass with beet greens salsa make it worthwhile. Up until about four years ago I had severe insensitivities to fish. I’m talking Hitch like full facial swell ups, eyes like Rocky post 12 rounds, and tight almost completely shut esophagus type insensitivities. From childhood to adulthood I tried different types of fish – catfish, bass fish, trout fish, salmon fish, baked fish, grilled fish, fried fish, etc. all met with the same violent allergic reactions. So pardon me for being a little gun shy after the benadryl runs and nauseated bathroom floor naps. However despite the many issues and beat downs, I remained steadfast in my desire to break bread with my family over a plate of fish.
You ask why, and the answer is very simple – I love my family dearly and my immediate and extended families both love fish. As a child we had weekly Friday night fish fries where all the Browns and neighbors came and celebrated and had fellowship. For years I was that one kid, that one family member that had “somethin wrong with him”. Later in adulthood as a parent, head of the household the same issues persisted. We eat dinner together most nights but for a long time were never been able to be all in with dinner options given my limitations. They’d wait til I was away for business trip to have their family meal over fish.
I tried all sorts of remedies – drinking aloe vera juice, pre-medicating on benedryl, etc. to no avail. The breakthrough occurred during a conversation with my kids’ allergist. He was as determined as I was to overcome my fish issues. He developed a plan to develop a fish tolerance. So each week I would add small doses of fish oil to my diet usually hidden in a smoothie. Overtime we incrementally increased the dosage until doses were pretty substantial which meant I was ready to graduate to tasting actual fish. We started with small portions all consumed in his office and again incrementally increased the serving size until I was comfortable and confident trying a full serving. All of this occurred over about a year’s time. Eventually we began to sample different types of fish, but I always had my Epi-Pen on hand. I continued to eat fish, but it was never a fully enjoyable experience as mentally there was always that fear even if it was subconscious. I’m operating at about 95% confidence now, which is more than enough to become a fish snob!
I jumped in fully starting with cooking whole fish first chance I got. Figured I’d make up for lost time and shake any fears and/or reservations about cooking whole fish. Trust me, it’s not as hard as you’d think. Actually it’s quite easy and satisfying.
Tips For Cooking Whole Fish
I’ve become a huge fan of whole baked fish recipes or grilled for that matter. One, you’re almost guaranteed quality, can’t beat the value, there seems to be much more flavor (whole fish is also more juicy, because it’s cooked on the bone and in its skin), the presentation is awesome and adds to the experience of eating, and the bones can later be used to make homemade fish stock. Here are a food good tips to follow when cooking whole fish:
- Fresh fish should have shiny, tight almost “wet looking” skin and be “cow-eyed,” i.e. eyes bulging out. If the eyes are cloudy and drooping move on.
- For serving size, esteem about a pound per grown up and adjust down for kids
- Make sure you have your fish guy do all the dirty work in terms of scaling, cleaning, gutting, etc. It’s still probably a good idea to check for scales anyway just in case especially if you run into a situation as I did recently when I had a newbie handling my order.
- When prepping, treat your fish like you would chicken, i.e. rinse then pat it dry, and season it inside and out with salt and pepper
- Score the outer flesh of fish by cutting 2-3 slits about an inch apart across one or both sides of the fish. Don’t make these too deep, just enough to massage the salsa into the slits.
- Stuff the cavity with aromatics like fresh herbs, garlic, and/or lemons.
- Season ridiculously with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. heck outta the fish.
- Line your baking sheet with parchment paper for easy clean-up
- To tell when it’s done push down on the thickest part of the fillet, where it meets the head. If it starts to break away from the bone, it’s done.
- Serve immediately and squeeze some lemon juice over the fish
- To serve the fish follow these carving directions
Is There A Good Substitute for Black Bass?
This whole baked fish recipe calls for black bass, but this was merely due to the fact that it was the freshest fish for my needs that my fish guy had on hand. I’m a sucker for red snapper, but the selection at the time was not up to standard. Also trout or branzino would have worked just as well if not better. Branzino is a very popular choice for a whole baked fish recipe.
Will other greens work for the salsa?
The beet greens salsa from my earlier post puts this fish recipe over the top. The fresh herbs and earthy spices are a perfect compliment to the bass fish. I’m big into not wasting food, so chose beet greens for this recipe since I had used beets in a salad for lunch. Feel free to substitute your green of choice. I’ve used collard greens, carrot top greens, as well as kale and chard. The flavor and color change slightly from green to green but end result for all is damn good!
Baked Whole Black Sea Bass with Beet Greens Salsa
If you make this whole baked fish recipe, please come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.
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Roasted Whole Black Bass
- 2 whole black bass fish about 1 pound each, scaled, gutted and cleaned
- 2 lemons thinly sliced
- Kosher salt or fine sea salt
- ¼ cup olive oil for the cooking pan
- 4 tablespoons Beet Greens Salsa Verde (recipe below)
Score each side of fish diagonally creating about 3 slits per side
Heat oven to 475 F.
Rinse the exterior and interior of the fish under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.
Season inside of fish with salt, pepper, lemon slices, and salsa. Close the fish
Place a cast iron skillet over high heat and add the olive oil.
Sear the fish for 3 minutes then flip over with a spatula and repeat.
Spoon additional salsa into the diagonal slits of the fish.
Place pan and fish in the oven and roast for another 3 minutes. Remove and let fish rest. Serve wih lemons
Trout or branzino can easily be substituted
Beet Greens Salsa
This magical salsa is pretty much good on anything from meats to vegetables.
- 1/2 cup beet greens
- ¼ cup cilantro
- ¼ cup parsley
- 1 tsp fresh thyme
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/3 cup Olive oil
- 1 Lemon juiced
Combine the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. This should not be a puree texture, but instead grainy/leafy.