Chilean Sea Bass is the royalty of the fish and seafood world. It’s firm yet so buttery that it’s knocking on the door of decadence. The perfect way to cook Chilean sea bass is to lightly season it with some salt and to give it a good sear in a piping hot skillet. The simplicity of this method allows the beauty of this fish to shine with a contrasting textures of a crisp crust and melt-in-you-mouth interior.
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Why This Recipe Works
Chilean sea bass deserves the royal treatment and that’s exactly what we give it in the recipe! The fillets of fish get seared in a rippin’ hot skillet until a beautiful crisp crust is formed. The buttery Chilean sea bass is then served over a pile of sweet, savory and creamy maque choux. Hungry? This it the dinner to satisfy any craving.
Chilean Sea Bass
Chilean Sea Bass is without a doubt the star of the show here. If you’ve never had Chilean Sea Bass you are in for a real treat. It’s a white fish featuring a dense milky-white flesh that’s moist and buttery. It has a mild flavor that’s slightly sweet.
Contrary to what you may expect, Chilean sea bass is actually not a bass fish at all. Instead, the Patagonian toothfish and its close relative the Antarctic toothfish are both marketed as Chilean Sea Bass.
Chilean sea bass is often confused with the black sea bass, which, unlike the Chilean sea bass, is actually a bass found in the Atlantic coast of the US.
We wanted to give our maque choux a savory twist. Instead of bacon we’re using Spanish-style chorizo which infuses the vegetables with smoked paprika and adds a lovely chew to the entire dish. Spanish-style chorizo is dried and sold like salami. Find it at your local butcher or cheese shop. If you can’t find chorizo, opt for bacon or pancetta. Do not use Mexican-style chorizo which is sold fresh.
For any pan-frying you do in the kitchen we recommend you use a high-heat cooking oil such as avocado oil, peanut oil, sunflower oil or vegetable oil. We prefer refined avocado oil, but use what you like and have on hand. We do not recommend olive oil for pan-searing.
In an effort to stay somewhat true to the Southern roots of this dish, we’re using jalapeño for a little heat. If you like spice, mince the entire pepper—ribs, seeds and all. Or go even bolder and use a serrano. If you prefer things on the milder end, remove the ribs and seeds before mincing the pepper. If you want more heat at the end, you can always mince up the ribs and seeds and add those to the dish to taste.
What to Look for When Buying Sea Bass
We always recommend seeking out quality fish and seafood—but for this recipe it’s especially important. Either you already know or you’ll soon find out that Chilean Sea Bass is an expensive fish. And if you’re going to spend $20 to $30 per pound of fish, it better be as fresh as possible.
When shopping for Chilean Sea Bass look for a few things:
- It shouldn’t have a strong odor. It should smell mildly of the ocean but not fishy.
- The flesh should have a firm texture and bright white color.
- The flesh should be smooth—not broken or falling apart.
- Opt for skin-on fillets. During the cooking process, the skin retains moisture and keeps the fish buttery.
How to Cook Chilean Sea Bass
The beautiful thing about Chilean sea bass is that it’s so moist and buttery, which makes it hard to over cook it. However, with such an expensive piece of fish, you want to make sure you’re cooking it perfectly! For this recipe, we like to use the pan-searing method. Here’s our method for this perfect pan seared Chilean sea bass recipe.
Step 1: Pat the Fish Dry
It’s important to pat the fish dry with paper towels before placing it in the hot skillet. Dry surface=crispy sear. Wet surface=steam cooked.
Step 2: Preheat the Skillet and Oil
For even cooking and good sear, preheat a cast-iron skillet for a few minutes before adding the oil and allowing it to heat up until shimmering. Once it’s shimmering (the oil slightly dances in the pan) it’s ready for the fish.
Step 3: Sear the Fish
Season the fish with salt then immediately add it to the pan, skin side down in the hot oil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the skin is well-browned and most of the flesh is opaque (the top half inch or so should still look raw).
Flip the fish and continue cooking until the fish is cooked through (should register 135ºF on an instant-read thermometer.
Maque Choux vs Succotash
Succotash is a Southern-style dish featuring corn kernels, lima beans and red or green bell peppers. The name succotash is derived from a Naragansett Indian word, msickquatash, meaning “boiled whole kernels of corn.”
Maque Choux is a Cajun side dish made of onions, corn and peppers. The most notable difference, is that maque choux is usually cooked in rendered bacon fat, imparting the sweet side dish with rich smokiness.
- Add diced red potatoes to the maque choux or serve our crispy fingerling potatoes on the side.
- Serve the Chilean sea bass with our lemon and garlic butter sauce which is flavored with shallot and dry white wine. Serve over rice or quinoa and finish with capers.
- Add a couple tablespoons fresh lemon juice to the maque choux instead of vinegar. Top each serving with minced lemon zest for a bright, citrusy note.
Fill Out the Menu
- For a really hearty dinner, add some cooked basmati rice to the plate.
- Our Sweet Potato Rolls are the perfect side dish! Serve with softened butter and flaky sea salt.
- In keeping with the Southern flavors, serve this dish with our Skillet Cornbread (we also have a Gluten-Free Skillet Cornbread).
We prefer a cast-iron skillet because it retains heat really well and heats evenly throughout (aka no cold spots). If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, we recommend using a stainless steel skillet such as this one.
If you don’t want to cook on the stove top you can grill the fish. We recommend grilling the sea bass fillets over direct high heat (450ºF) for about 4 minutes per side.
Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass with Chorizo Maque Choux
- 4 teaspoons avocado oil, divided
- 4 ounces dry Spanish chorizo, casing removed and cut into ¼-inch dice (1 cup)
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
- 1 bunch scallions, chopped, white and light green parts separated from dark green parts
- 1 jalapeño, minced
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces (about 3 cups)
- 2 ears sweet corn, shucked and corn cut from cobs
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 4 (5- to 6-ounce) skin-on Chilean sea bass fillets, 1-inch thick
- Chopped parsley and lemon wedges, for serving, optional
- Heat 2 teaspoons avocado oil over medium in a large skillet. Add chorizo and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chorizo to a bowl. Reserve drippings in skillet.
- Add bell pepper, scallion whites and light green parts, and jalapeño. Season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Cook until peppers start to soften, about 3 minutes.
- Add asparagus; increase heat to high and cook 4 minutes.
- Add corn and garlic, decrease heat to medium and cook until corn is vibrant yellow, about 1 minute. Deglaze with vinegar then reduce heat to low and stir in cream. Season with additional salt and pepper taste.
Chilean Sea Bass
- Pat fillets dry with paper towels. Heat 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium for 3 minutes. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and heat until shimmering.
- Place fillets, skin side down, in skillet. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low and, using fish spatula, firmly press fillets to ensure even contact between skin and skillet. Continue to cook until skin is well browned and flesh is opaque except for top ½-inch, 4–6 minutes. (If at any time during searing, oil starts to smoke, or sides of fish start to brown, reduce heat so that oil is sizzling but not smoking.)
- Flip fillets and continue to cook until bass registers 135ºF (57ºC); 4–6 minutes more.
- Stir dark green onions parts into Maque Choux then divide between plates. Top with bass fillets then sprinkle crispy chorizo and parsley over top.
Photos by: Megan McKeehan