Last evening we had a couple of friends over and this is what was in the works.
Pretty simple, really. To begin with we had soup; and unless it's a soup I make from cleaning out the refrigerator I generally just go down to Zanotto's or Whole Foods, because their ready and hot soups are just too good to fool around all day with making something like a shrimp bisque, which is what we had and is keeping warm in the lidded pot.
The main is Chilean sea bass from Race Street Fish Market at (ouch!) about $22 per pound, but it was excellent and what good is something that costs less if it's not excellent? In the pan to the left is a very simple onion and brown Italian mushroom reduction. Saute about half a chopped yellow onion in a bit of olive oil on medium high heat, and as soon as they get translucent and caramelized on the edges, toss in (deglaze) about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of some kind of white wine or Marsala wine of your preference. With the hot pan (careful of a flare up from the alcohol) it will evaporate pretty quickly, at which point you add the chopped mushrooms (about a half basket). Let those go for a bit, until they get tender, add some fresh or even dry parsely along the way, some salt & pepper, and then add 1/2 to 1 cup of either chicken or vegetable stock. I used a half cube of Knorr vegetable bouillion (one of our guests eats no land animals) in about a cup of water. Let that reduce down on medium low heat until it just feels right.
Cooking the bass is too simple. Preheat your oven to 450 while you heat up enough oil in a thick skillet to easily coat the bottom. Use an oil that can take high heat (not olive oil). I use peanut oil for almost all such applications, and no, it doesn't make things taste like peanuts (but you do have to concern yourself with guests who might have peanut allergies; they'll usually tell you, because it can be quick and deadly). Peanut oil is absolutely the very best think in which to cook fried chicken and French fried potatoes, FYI. You'll never see a nicer looking golden brown on anything.
Alright, so once the pan and oil are set, make your heat setting medium high, and slide in the fillets that you've seasoned with salt & pepper (both sides). About 3 minutes on each side should be enough to get that golden crust you want (or, if your fillets have skin on one side, you want the skin nice and crispy) and then, leaving them on the flipped side you cooked second (don't turn them a second time or you'll risk breaking them up, which would be a disaster), put the whole skillet in the oven for 4-5 minutes.
While in the oven, I heated olive oil in a second skillet, added about a heaping teaspoon of minced garlic from a bottle, and it only takes a few second to start turning golden. Then I dump in a whole lot of baby spinach and toss it and toss it over the high heat. A bit of salt & pepper and you'll know when it's done which doesn't take very long. This goes on the plate, you carefully extract the fillets from the pan you've taken from the oven and kind of prop them up on the spinach and then spoon on some of your onion and mushroom reduction. It was fabulous.
We enjoyed it with a chilled chardonnay. Afterwards was a simple green leaf vinaigrette (just lettuce), followed by some very ripe French cheeses: Alsacean Munster (probably my favorite), Bleu d'Auvergne (I prefer the cheaper Bleu de Bresse, but none available), and Chèvre (Bucheron; bitingly ripe – yum). This must be enjoyed with good French baguette and red wine. Slice the bread thick (1-2 inches). You then break a piece of the crust with its bread filling attached, and place a hefty glob of cheese on the bread (never ever spread it, or you'll deserve to be laughed at) and eat it. Chase it with just a bit of red wine while the pungent cheese is still in your mouth and you will attain enlightenment. You will understand what the whole French cheese and red wine thing is all about. You think I'm kidding; I'm not. I'll not try and describe the combination of taste and olfactory stimulation, because it's indescribably and must simply be experienced individually. I have had people who've never tasted a real and properly ripened French cheese in their lives — or served in this manner — gorge themselves silly upon this discovery.
So there you have it.