I am fortunate to have a lot of friends who love to cook and create. What’s interesting is that most of them are dudes and they all do the majority of the cooking for their wives and families. They also each have their own specialties or at least what I would call their signature dishes.
It’s an intriguing question to ask yourself:” What’s my specialty?” or “What are my signature dishes?” (my definition of a signature dish is a recipe that you’ve made many times and altered and tweaked to your taste and perfection – It’s a recipe that you’re proud of and says something about your personality).
I love to BBQ, of course, but I also love comfort food: the big meals like turkey, roasts, hams. The main reason I like comfort food is that I love cooking for full table of people. I also love recreating Classic Diner Food in my home. Sometimes I get obsessed with a certain ethnic cuisine. I love making Mexican dishes. I make killer tamales. But by far my favorite recipes from a far away land would have to be Italian. Every time I’m at an Italian restaurant and I try something new, I have to attempt to recreate that meal. My brother took us out to dinner at Mangia E Bevi, in West Vancouver many months ago and I’m still trying to nail down their Linguine with Porcini and Truffle Oil sauce. My next version will be the third attempt and I’m hopping it’s the charmer.
This Sea Bass Recipe was a total free-style dish, which is often the case when my good friend Bruce is in the kitchen. When we cook together it is an all-day adventure. An event. Often we’ll shop together, and like on this day, with no real plan. We just went to Granville Island to get inspired. This strategy often ends up with buying and cooking way too much food. The last Cooking Adventure/Sleep-Over at my house I planned around 6 courses for us and our wives. The sixth, a beautiful and massive Chicken Tamale Pie, ended up being breakfast the next morning because we ran out of stomach room.
So this Recipe is kind of a non-recipe, which is actually Bruce’s specialty. His cooking is heavily influenced by his time spent living in France and Spain and many of his non-recipes involve non-measuring. His deal is to start with high quality ingredients and improvise using his experience and taste buds.
Back to Granville Island: The Sea Bass looked great at the fish monger’s. Then the thought was that there is nothing better than wrapping your white fish in pork before you grill it, so we stopped by Oyama and picked up some savoury boar bacon. Finally, we stuffed it with fresh herbs that were growing in Bruce’s garden.
The Sea Bass filets were on the large side, probably between 10 and 12 ounces each. First we sliced a pocket in the flesh then stuffed it with thyme, chives, tarragon and flat leaf parsley.
To create the bacon overcoats we laid out 5 pieces side by side and set the sea bass on it perpendicular. Then starting a the top, we folded the bacon over like a collar, making sure that the next piece of bacon overlapped the previous. No toothpicks needed.
Then it was onto the the Weber. We started the coals in a chimney and when they were ready, placed them on the outside of the grill so we could cook with indirect heat.
The Weber did what Webers do. With the lid on we let the filets bake for 12(ish) minutes then we took the lid off and seared the bacon on all four sides to get it a little crispy. It’s important to not overcook your fish and although sea bass is more forgiving than halibut, you need to keep an eye on it. When I think I’m getting close, I always bend open one of the pieces (which ends up being the one I serve myself) to check the centre. You don’t want it raw in the middle but the flesh should be shiny, moist and a little translucent.
Grilling season is never over. Let this recipe inspire you to create your own. Choose your fish. Choose your herbs. Choose your bacon. Good luck.
What’s your specialty or signature dish? If you can’t answer that, maybe the ones that you cook for the most can.
One last thing… if anyone has a recipe for Porcini and Truffle Oil Lingiuni, please help me out with my latest obsession and share it with me. I’m very close on my re-creation, but maybe you have the missing ingredient or technique to help me nail this dish.