Pan-Seared Sea Bass Drizzled with a Saffron Sauce

Adapted from Cuisine Magazine, July/August 1999



For the Saffron Sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons shallots, peeled and minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 1/4 cup vermouth
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 7-8 saffron threads
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley

For the Sea Bass:  

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 6-ounce sea bass fillets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


Step 1: To make the saffron sauce:  Peel the shallot, then mince.  One shallot makes 2 tablespoons.
Step 2: Melt 1 tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add minced shallots and turmeric, saute until shallots are soft, about 3 minutes.
Step 3:  Add vermouth, vinegar, tomato paste and saffron. You just need a few saffron threads to get subtle flavor without being overpowering.
Step 4: Increase heat to medium-high and reduce until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 4-5 minutes. Then stir in the cream and bring to a boil.
Step 5:  Lower heat and simmer until sauce reduces to coat the back of a spoon, about 6 to 8 minutes. Make sure it doesn't boil over.
Step 6:  Strain the sauce through a fine mesh strainer; season with salt and cayenne. Just before serving, add the chopped tomatoes and parsley.
Step 7: For the sea bass:  Preheat over to broil at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Pat the sea bass dry with a paper towel. This helps to brown the sea bass faster plus the flour coating won't get gummy.
Step 8:  Combine the flour, salt, and black and cayenne peppers on a plate. Dredge the fillets in the flour, lightly coating the entire piece.
Step 9:  Heat oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, carefully add fillets and sear until golden, 5 to 6 minutes.
Step 10:  Try not to move the fillets much while searing. Carefully flip and transfer the skillet to the oven to finish for approximately 3 to 4 minutes.
Step 11: Remove skillet from the oven. Carefully place fillets on plate and spoon warmed sauce over the sea bass , pooling at the base of the fish.  The sauce is rich so a little goes a long way.

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