Countdown to Christmas - Rick Stein's poached sea bass
Rick Stein makes a light fish supper flavoured with fennel and served with creamy mousseline sauce - a treat for Christmas eve.
Recipe - Serves: 4
4 sea bass each weighing 350 to 400g scaled and gutted
1 tsp fennel seeds and a few sprigs of fresh dill or fennel
For the Mousseline Sauce
225g butter, clarified
50ml double cream
2 egg yolks
¾ teaspoon salt
Juice of ½ a lemon
1. For the sauce Place the butter in a small pan and leave it over a very low heat until it has melted. Then skim off any scum from the surface and pour off the clear (clarified) butter into a bowl, leaving behind the milky white solids that will have settled on the bottom of the pan.
2. Whip the cream till it starts to form ribbons. Put the egg yolks, salt, 2 tablespoons of water and the lemon juice in a blender then pour in the clarified butter in a steady stream with the motor on. Remove the sauce to a bowl and fold in the whipped cream. Keep the mousseline sauce warm by putting the bowl over a saucepan of just boiled water and cover the bowl with a lid.
3. For the fish: Put the fennel sprigs in the gut cavity of the two fish. Use a pan big enough to take the fish lying flat. Barely cover the fish with water and season at the rate of 1 teaspoon of salt per 600ml of water.
4. Add the fennel seeds to the water and bring it to the boil, simmer for about six minutes, but check the core temperature. When the fish reach 60 degrees, lift carefully out of the water and lay on their side on a chopping board. With the first fish scrape away the fins with a knife then cut through the skin and flesh just behind the head and at the tail and peel or scrape the skin away. Remove the top fillet and lay on a warm plate. Lift the head and back bone away from the lower fillet. Pick the bottom fillet up and turn it over on the chopping board and remove the skin. Place the second fillet on the serving plate. Do the same with the other fish. Sprinkle with a little of the sauce and serve the rest separately.