How to cook whole sea bass? Easy - much easier than cooking fillets. Problems start when you try to fillet it nicely...
How to cook whole sea bass?
Whole roast fish is very easy to cook. Just stuff a few sprigs of herb into the cavity. Season the scored skin with whatever your fancy dictates you: oriental spices and lemongrass, a bit of balsamic and oil, or just lemon and garlic.
Brush with butter or drizzle with more oil and roast for about 20 minutes depending on the size of the fish. You can make a bed of pre-roasted vegetables for the bass or bream or lay it on some onion or leek slices and you have a side ready at the same time. If you serve one whole fish per person, it's easy.
So, what's not to like?
Issues start when you're roasting a big beast and want to share it - filleting is tricky. I once ordered a sea bass in a restaurant in Venice, the fish was presented to me whole and then in an expert flurry of forks and fish slices two incredibly neat fillets landed on my plate. I guess it's a skill you can learn but I'll never reach the heights of that Venetian waiter's mastery.
Filleting cooked fish is tricky
My first attempt involved lining up a large knife, a small knife, a palette knife, spatula, poultry scissors and extra large fish slice. Did I make dog's dinner out of it. I have became a little better now and so will share here some tips.
My how-to filleting tips
Before cooking cut off the tail with about an inch of flesh. It will make it easier to insert a knife or slice under the skin and above the main bone.
Also cut off the dorsal fins at the back with poultry or ordinary scissors, you'll be able to lift a side of the fish without tearing the skin.
Once one side is done, lift the main bone, remove the side bones and fins and lift the bottom half - it will be neater but not crispy.
Easiest if you don't care for the skin at all - peel it off and lift the flesh with two large forks.