Nduja-Stuffed Sea Bass with Mashed Potatoes
This delicious fish is stuffed with Nduja, a pork salami paste from Southern Italy cured with dry chilies. Imagine a bright red, edible meat putty that tastes like Tabasco, and you're halfway there.
"The Nduja stuffing is brilliant."
for the tomato sauce:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
5-6 cloves garlic
2 14.5-oz cans of tomatoes
salt, to taste
pinch of sugar
vinegar, to taste
2 dried chipotle chilies
for the mashed potatoes:
2 good-sized potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil, or butter to taste
for the sea bass:
2 fillets seabass
2 thin slices of Nduja, a bit smaller than the length of the fillets
oil, for cooking
salt, to taste
tomato sauce, prepared
mashed potatoes, prepared
1 large handful diced chorizo
1 large handful peas
juice of half a lemon
1) For the tomato sauce, in a pan, add oil. When hot, add onion and cook over a low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and the tomatoes, but keep the heat low so the garlic doesn't colour and turn bitter. Once everything is bubbling, add salt to taste, and add a pinch of sugar and a splash of vinegar. Over time, these will balance out the twang that you get from the taste of tomatoes. We also chuck in a couple of dried chipotle chilies. Let the mixture cook for up to 2 hours on a very low heat, then liquify the sauce to a smooth consistency.
2) For the potatoes, microwave a couple of decent size spuds the way you would if you wanted a quick leathery skinned jacket. When thoroughly cooked, scrape out the insides, and mash using whatever tools you have. The advantage of microwaving potatoes in their skins is that you get a really dry result, which will take loads of oil, or butter, or whatever you're putting into it. Just before serving, beat in as much olive oil or butter as the mash will hold. Tip: If you're boiling the potatoes, slice them into even discs before putting them in the water. Not only does this give you more surface area to wash away starch before cooking, it also means that they'll cook quicker, though be careful not to let the water boil, as this vigorous movement will smash up the potatoes into wet lumps.
3) For the sea bass, make a horizontal cut into the flesh side of the fish, without going all the way through, so that you create a flap. Then make a smaller cut into the opposite direction, so you can open the fillet up like a book. Press a thin tongue of Nduja all the way along. Its putty-like properties will seal up the edges when you close them.
4) Heat a non-stick pan as hot as it will get. Oil and salt the skin on the fish and press gently against the red hot metal. Don't be scared of the sizzling noises, because if you let go for the first thirty seconds, the skin will shrink due to the heat and give you a bent piece of fish. Immediately turn the heat right down. The idea is that you hit the skin with a full whack of heat to crisp it, but you want to cook the actual flesh slowly so as not to toughen it. This also gives you more control and makes it less likely to overcook. When there's only a tiny bit of raw flesh left on top, flip the fish. As soon as it touches the pan, it is done.
5) Remove the bass and keep warm. Turn up the heat under the pan and throw in the diced chorizo. When it's sizzling, add a slug of tomato sauce, peas, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. The tang really helps bring everything together.
6) Arrange the bass artfully on top of the mash and sauce in the manner of your favourite chef, and take at least six photographs of your efforts on your iPhone. Remember, it may be delicious, but if you don't Instagram it, it didn't happen.