Black sea bass has a mild, sweet flavor with a delicate flake and delicious skin. The fillets have a tendency to curl when searing which can be remedied by making a few small slashes on the skin side and using light pressure with a spatula. This simple and versatile recipe can be prepared with rockfish, Pacific cod, lingcod, or halibut (which don’t need to be scored before cooking).
3 to 4 black sea bass fillets (about 1 lb)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 medium garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dusting
2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as avocado, safflower, or grapeseed
Flaky sea salt for sprinkling
Lemon wedges for serving
Prep the fish
Using a sharp knife, make 3 shallow slashes into the skin side of each fillet, being careful not to cut too deeply. This helps the fish stay flat when cooking. Sprinkle the fillets all over with salt. Set aside at room temperature for 10 minutes.
Make the Butter
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the butter, garlic, rosemary, and generous pinch of pepper and stir until smooth. Set aside.
Cook the Fish
Rinse the fish and pat very dry with paper towels, then dust with flour, tapping off the excess. In a large nonstick or cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the fillets to the skillet in a single layer, skin side down. Immediately press the fish gently with a spatula for 30 seconds so it lays flat. Lift the spatula and cook until the fish is nearly done, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the fish and cook until lightly browned and cooked through, about 2 minutes.
Finish and Serve
Transfer the fish to plates, skin side up, and top with the garlic-herb butter. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and serve with the lemon wedges alongside.
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Pair it Up
Double down on the buttery richness of the dish with a California chardonnay. For a touch of herbal acidity, go for a grüner veltliner or sauvignon blanc.
Make It A Meal
Serve a crisp green salad to balance the richness and crusty bread to soak up the buttery sauce.
Change It Up
Fold leftover flaked fish and the garlic-herb butter into risotto or warm pasta for a next-day dinner.