Baked Chilean Sea Bass with Orange Butter Sauce

(jump to recipe)

You can’t let February pass by without making something with blood oranges! Although this recipe can be made with any type of orange, or a combination of oranges, the blood orange makes it truly gorgeous: contrasting well in color and flavor with a meaty mild, white fish, such as cod, sole or sea bass.

Farm fresh blood oranges in all their glory.

I tried a version of the orange butter sauce (with sole) on the Napa wine train lunch couple years ago, and later the server actually brought out a small bowl-ful of just the sauce for me to eat, because I had licked the plate clean. Actually I should correct that: I had licked my then-boyfriend’s plate clean, so he requested the server to bring us me some extra sauce. Surprisingly he still married me, but that’s a story for another day. It was absolutely divine and when I realized how rich and full of cream and butter it was, I just filed it in the ‘can’t ever have again’ folder. An orange-based salsa or something of the sort appeared on a restaurant menu few weeks ago and I got obsessed with it again, right around blood orange season.

I decided I would figure out a way to make it with less butter, no cream, add more depth with spices and aromatics, maybe a drizzle of mustard, and see where it goes. The sauce, while tart, was well-balanced and would have been really, really great with a few more tablespoons of butter (since it is more like 4-6 more tablespoons of butter, I chose not take it that far but you are absolutely welcome to try, lactose intolerance notwithstanding!).

To make the sauce, I started by juicing 5-6 small blood oranges, 1 cara cara orange and 1 navel orange – you can use any combination of oranges based on availability and taste preference. Before you start juicing, make sure you zest a couple of the blood oranges, about 1-2 teaspoons. As for the juice, we are looking for a cup or so of freshly squeezed juice.

Damn you citrus – even your mess is pretty.

In a small saucepan we melt a tablespoon of unsalted butter on medium-low heat, and toast a few cloves and a bay leaf in it, until fragrant. Make sure you don’t let anything brown, hence the medium-low heat. Then add a small shallot, minced. Once its softened, add the freshly squeezed orange juice and cooked on medium-low heat until reduced to 1/2 – 3/4th original quantity. Out goes the cloves and bay leaf, and whisk in 4 tablespoons of butter, diced, along with salt, pepper and a few squiggles of Dijon mustard.

Awesome sauce.

You may add 4 or 5 additional tablespoons of butter to make a more luxurious sauce. If you do so, adjust the salt and pepper!

I absolutely adored the idea of serving fish on a potato “raft” (the world needs more potato rafts, trust me) when I saw it in Sheet Pan Suppers earlier in January. Molly Gilbert whips up some amazing lunches and dinners in this book! I’ve already tried a few recipes and they’ve been great: quick, fuss-free, minimal cleanup – everything I usually look for in a weeknight or even Sunday night dinner when we’re exhausted from the weekend’s activities and gearing up for a new week.

The first time around, I made this recipe with delicate and mild dover sole (skinless but not filleted) that was really soft, mild and lovely, but too thin, delicate and way too small for this application. And not that it’s a problem (especially for me) but the fish almost disappeared into the potatoes and could not hold up to the bold flavor of the sauce. Since I brushed the sauce on top of the fish before baking it, the flavor intensified further, which wasn’t intended. It was still delicious and we still ate it, but I’m sharing this back story more as a warning: make sure you listen to Molly and use fish fillets that are at least 1 1/2 inches thick. I will spare you the horror of seeing the pictures.

Onward! To make the rafts, I scrubbed, peeled and cut some russet potatoes 1/4 inch thick. Tossed them on the cutting board with a tablespoon of olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Then I arranged them into “rafts” – size/shape would depend on the size/shape of the fish fillets.

Is it a raft or a quilt? Who cares as long as it is made with potatoes!

Baked for 30 minutes in 425 degrees F oven, turning the pan around halfway through the cooking time.

Try not to start eating the potatoes straight off the pan.

While the potatoes were cooking, I prepped the fish fillets: I used the meaty but mild Chilean sea bass, and it’s buttery texture paired really well with the citrus. Go for 1 – 1 1/2 inch thick fillets, cut evenly. Drizzle the fillets with olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides and set aside.

I also wanted to roast a few slices of blood orange on the pan while roasting the fish, to the top the fish with later (the bi-colored blood oranges we got from the Ferry Building farmer’s market were something to behold!). To do so, slice off the top and bottom of the blood orange with a sharp and heavy knife, and set it upright on the cutting board. Starting from the top, cut out the peel and the pith, sparing as much of the flesh as possible. Go around the orange till the peel is removed, and clean up the pith, if any is remaining. Cut the orange into 1/2 inch thick slices.

A teeny tutorial. Using a heavy, sharp knife is key so as to not bruise and mangle the fruit.

Once the potatoes are cooked (after 30 minutes), place the fish fillets, skin side down on the potatoes. Place the blood orange slices gently on the baking sheet, and drizzle with a few drops of olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake the fish and orange slices in the oven for about 15 minutes, until the fish is flaky and cooked through. The orange slices will be sizzling and soft, with a bit of a char.

Fillet of fish sans the blood orange slices!
Behold the contrast!
My favorite new (old?) spoon.

Transfer fillet along with its raft to a plate. Top each fillet with 3-4 blood orange slices and a drizzle of the blood orange butter sauce. Garnish with chopped cilantro or chives for a pop of green and serve alongside remaining roasted orange slices.

Baked Chilean Sea Bass on Potato Rafts with Blood Orange Butter Sauce


• Recipe •

Baked Chilean Sea Bass on Potato Rafts with Blood Orange Butter Sauce

Adapted from Sheet Pan Suppers 

Serves 4 as a main 

For the Fish
4 Chilean sea bass or cod fillets, weighing about 4 oz each and about 1 – 1  1/2 inches thick
3 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

For the Potato Rafts
5-6 large russet potatoes, washed, scrubbed, peeled, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

For the Orange Butter Sauce
5-6 medium blood oranges, cara cara oranges, navel oranges or a mix thereof (to yield a cup of juice)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, cut into 1/4 inch dice
2-3 cloves (dry spice)
1 bay leaf
1 small shallot, minced fine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4-5 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, cut into 1/4 inch dice (optional)

To assemble
4-5 medium blood oranges, peeled and thick pith removed, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
1 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper

To garnish
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or chives

In a small sauce pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter on medium-low heat. Add cloves and bay leaf and warm through, taking care not to burn or brown the butter. Add the shallots and cook for 3-4 minutes, until soft and translucent, but not brown.

Zest 1 or 2 of the blood oranges, for about 1 teaspoon of orange zest. Then juice all the oranges, for about a cup of the juice

Add the juice to the pan and cook on medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until it reduces to about 3/4.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a heavy rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Discard the cloves and bay leaf, and whisk in the remaining butter, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Add additional butter if using, adjust salt and pepper levels and set aside off the flame. Sauce will keep in the fridge for a couple of days and in the freezer for a week – be sure to store it in an airtight container if not using immediately.

Toss the potato slices with olive oil, salt and pepper and arrange on the parchment paper into 4 rafts (place them in an interlocking manner with a slight overlap). The size and shape of the rafts depends on the size and shape of the fillets – make sure the rafts will extend beyond the fish fillets, when the fillet is placed on top.

Bake for 15 minutes in the middle rack, then turn the pan around and bake for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

While the potatoes are baking, prep the fish fillets with brushing them with olive oil, salt and pepper on both sides. Set aside.

Once the potatoes have cooked through (after 30 minutes), place the fillets, skin side down, on the potatoes (1 in each raft). Scatter the blood orange slices all over the baking sheet (not on the fish or potatoes), and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Bake for 15 minutes until the fish is cooked through and flaky, and the blood orange slices are sizzling and slightly charred.

Transfer each fillet with its raft onto a plate using a large spatula. Place 2-3 roasted orange slices on each fillet. Drizzle 1 – 1/2 tablespoons of the orange butter sauce onto each fillet.

Garnish with chopped cilantro or chives and serve immediately.

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