Chilean sea bass

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Chilean sea bass is not a true sea bass, but is a member of a unique family of fish found only in the Southern seas. In Chile, it is called bacalao de profundidad ÄÄ cod of the depths ÄÄ but similarity between the tow fish ends with their bright white flesh. Where cod is lean with a very mild flavor, Chilean sea bass is rich and full of flavor.

The flesh color of Chilean sea bass should be clear , bright white and the fish should smell clean and fresh. The texture should be firm, not soft or gelatinous.

The Chilean sea bass is a large fish, averaging about 20 pounds in commercial catch, yielding large, thick fillets. Unless you get a thinner tail-end piece, the fillet can be over 2 inches thick.

Fillets are invariably sold already skinned and ready to cook, but may have a few bones.

Chilean sea bass are primarily found in the deep ocean waters the length of Chile, although the fishery is beginning to expand into other deep southern waters of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.

Fishing for Chilean sea bass continues throughout the year, but winter is the biggest season with the heaviest catches between November and February. This is when prices for fresh Chilean sea bass are at their lowest, but top quality frozen product is available year-round at moderate prices. Expect to pay an average of $5.99 per pound.

The high oil content of Chilean sea bass gives it delicious flavor which can easily stand alone with just a pinch of seasoning or a squeeze of lemon juice. However, this fish pairs up wonderfully with more elaborate flavors. Try simmering it gently with plenty of tomatoes, garlic and fresh herbs, or marinate it before cooking. This is a versatile fish that can tolerate experimentation in the kitchen.

Thanks to its oil content, Chilean sea bass does not risk drying out as quickly as leaner fish may, but you still don't want to overcook it and lose its moist flavor. The fillets often have large pin bones which you might want to remove before cooking; just give them a tug with a clean pair of needlenose pliers or tweezers.

When the fish is cooked, it has big, tender flakes; cooking it in larger pieces helps ensure that the fish won't fall apart as it cooks. If you buy one large piece of fillet and portion it at home, cut it in pieces about 1 to 1« inches wide, making it easier to handle when cooked.

The rich flavor of Chilean sea bass translates into a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, about .9 g per 3« ounce serving. Each serving has 234 calories, 16 g of protein. 38 mg cholesterol and 19 g fat.

Simply Seafood Winter 1994

Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 01-13-95

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