Herb-encrusted Striped Bass with Tartar Sauce

Serves 4

When wild striped bass begins its annual migration up the North Atlantic coast and we see the fish in our markets, it’s one of the high points of summer. The mild, firm flesh can be adapted to a variety of cooking methods. Here, skinless boneless striped bass is blanketed in fresh herbs and served with a tangy homemade tartar sauce. The key to even cooking is low heat and a covered skillet on the stovetop, so there’s no need to turn the oven on. Use fresh parsley and cilantro, as I do here, or anything you find in the farmers’ market or farmstand, including chives, basil, tarragon, marjoram, or chervil.

SAUCE

½ cup mayonnaise

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon drained capers, chopped

1 cornichon pickle, chopped

Juice of ½ lemon, or more to taste

1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon chopped mixed fresh parsley and cilantro

1. In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, cumin, capers, cornichon, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and herbs.

2. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lemon juice, if you like; set aside.

FISH

1½ pounds skinless, boneless striped bass, cut into 4 pieces

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ cup flour

2 eggs 

¼ cup finely chopped fresh parsley

¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1. Sprinkle the fish on both sides with salt, pepper, and cumin.

2. In 3 shallow bowls or pie plates, place the flour, eggs, and herbs. Beat the eggs lightly with a fork.

3. Press the tops and bottoms of the fish into the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip the pieces into the eggs, then into the herbs.

4. In a cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Place the fish in the skillet, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.

5. Turn the fish and cover the pan. Cook 4 to 5 minutes more, or until the fish is firm to the touch and cooked through. If the herbs are browning too much, turn down the heat. Total cooking time is 8 to 10 minutes.

6. Arrange a piece of fish on each of 4 plates and add a spoonful of tartar sauce. Serve the remaining sauce separately.

By Claudia Catalano. Originally published in The Boston Globe.