Remember When People Ate Bass? Me too. Here is Bass with Angel Hair Pasta and Citrus Cream Sauce
Back in the dark days before people could win hundreds of thousands of dollars in tournaments catching a live-well full of Micropterus salmoides or Microterus dolomieu, the common practice was to toss them into an ice chest for filleting or cleaning.
Gramp baited up nightcrawlers to fish for everything. Not differentiating between largemouth and smallmouth bass, he’d simply refer to them by the more generic name “black bass” and add the fish to the stringer.
We don’t eat bass much anymore – partly for fear of those who’d want us hung by our thumbs for killing these hard-fighting piscatorial predators. But, bass taste good, especially younger ones taken from cool, clean waters.
This dish is pan-sautéed fillet of largemouth bass served over angel hair pasta and dressed with a citrus cream sauce that also features sun-dried tomatoes, and just enough pepper to balance out.
Don’t sacrifice a bass if it’s against your principles. Most flaky, white-meat fish that fillet well, would work. This includes dolphin (mahi), rockfish (striped bass), snapper, grouper and flounder on the saltwater side and crappie or bluegill in freshwater.
Fresh angel hair pasta adds a nice, delicate foundation, but properly cooked spaghetti or linguine would suffice in a pinch.
Cooking involves experimentation; that’s how this sauce came together. The sauce is versatile. Experiment further by adding or omitting herbs and spices and try it atop vegetables or other meats. Consider parsley, dill and lemon juice for topping asparagus or broccoli, or rosemary and basil for chicken. Grated Parmesan may go well with shrimp or cauliflower. If you don’t mind gilding the lily, add a little crab meat, crawfish tails, or shrimp to the sauce. The dish in the photo had some crawfish tails included as a little extra flavor treat. Have fun!
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon finely chopped scallions
3 thinly sliced shallots
1 clove minced garlic
½ cup dry white wine
8 ounces bottled clam juice
½ cup orange juice
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons diced sun dried tomatoes
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon herbs de Provence (or ½ teaspoon each basil and thyme)
1 teaspoon orange zest
½ teaspoon lime zest
1 cup heavy cream
8 ounces angel hair pasta (fresh is always better)
8 small bass fillets (about 24 ounces of fish)
Orange zest and chives for garnish
Optional: cooked small shrimp, crawfish tails or lump crab meat
Heat 2 tablespoon of oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add scallions, shallots and garlic and cook for a minute until vegetables begin to soften. Pour in wine, clam juice, orange juice and lime juice. Stir in tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, herbs, and zest. Add the cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until sauce is reduced by half.
Cook and drain the pasta according to package directions for al dente.
Lightly season the fish fillets with a little salt and pepper. Cayenne pepper adds an extra kick, but don’t overpower with it. Dredge in flour and shake to remove the excess.
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook the fish, browning on both sides. Depending on thickness, the fillets will take 2 to 5 minutes on each side to cook through.
Toss the pasta with half the sauce. Add the fish and top with the remaining sauce. Garnish with orange zest and chives.
Despite the citrus flavors, the cream and savory nuances help this dish pair well with a Chardonnay or Chablis, although a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio may also work.