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Sea bass with hot paprika vinaigrette by Sam and Sam Clark

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Written by:
Sea bass with hot paprika vinaigrette by Sam and Sam Clark

The fish here is poached in a rather classic mix of wine and stock. What makes the recipe sing is the hot paprika vinaigrette.

It couldn’t be easier to make, but a generous drizzle of it gives heat to a delicate fillet of fish spice, and a heady infusion of garlic. It also adds a trail of striking, burnished red. At the restaurant, this fish is served with spinach and grilled bread. At home, I often replace with bread with couscous, which I also drizzle with the paprika vinaigrette.

Chilean sea bass is not technically a bass, but a Patagonian toothfish. (It is rumoured that when given the arguably more chic name of Chilean sea bass, Patagonia toothfish tripled in both price and popularity.) It has since become over-fished. That said, you might easily substitute black sea bass, striped bass or even black cod (also known as sablefish) with equally delicious results – these choices are not only more reasonable in cost, but also, at present, more ecologically sound.

I crave this recipe after a few nights of rich food. It is simple, healthy and vivid in flavour. Serve over cooked chard, if you like.

Serves four

Poaching stock
8 cups fish stock
1 cup white wine
2tsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, quartered
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
5 cloves garlic, peeled
5 peppercorns
Salt, if needed

Vinaigrette
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3tbs good red wine vinegar
1tbs sweet paprika, preferably smoked
2tsp hot paprika, preferably smoked
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 fillets Chilean sea bass, sea bass, or black cod, about 170g each
A handful of fresh herbs, finely chopped, such as parsley, coriander and chives
4 slices warm toasted or grilled crusty bread, for serving

To make the poaching stock, pour the fish stock into a wide braising pot, a fish poacher or a roasting pan. Pour in the wine and olive oil, and toss in the onion, parsley, bay leaves, garlic and peppercorns. If the stock is unsalted, add a spoonful or two of salt. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat and simmer for about 40 minutes until the flavours meld. You can, of course, do this a few hours ahead of time. The taste will only improve if left to sit a while. Do make sure you have enough liquid to submerge the fish. Add a bit more stock or water as needed – the amount will depend on the size of the pan.

While the stock is simmering, make the vinaigrette. Warm the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the garlic and sauté until just golden. Turn off the heat and move the pan to another, cooler burner. Pour in the vinegar, with caution as it will spit and spatter. Keeping the pan off the heat, stir in the paprikas and watch as they dissolve, turning the oil a burnished red. Add a few pinches of sea salt and grinds of pepper. Return the pan to the still-warm burner, keeping the heat off and letting it sit as you poach the fish.

Bring the stock to a lazy simmer and gently lower the fish fillets into the liquid. Poach the fish until it just starts to flake when nudged with a fork – this may take as little as seven or eight minutes or as long as 11 or 12, depending on the thickness of the fillet. A centre-cut piece may have twice the girth of one closer to the tail.

Remove the fish to a platter or plates. Heat up the vinaigrette for a few seconds and give it a last stir.

Spoon a tablespoon or two of the poaching liquid over each fillet, followed by a generous drizzle of the paprika vinaigrette. Sprinkle with chopped parsley, coriander or chives.

Serve with thick slices of warm toasted or grilled crusty bread, also drizzled with vinaigrette.

Recipe from Sam and Sam Clark of Moro, taken from The London Cookbook by Aleksandra Crapanzano. Photography by Sang An

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