The European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) is native to the waters around Great Britain and is also extensively farmed. It should not be confused with the Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides), which is also sold under the name Chilean sea bass. The sea bass is a streamlined, silver fish with a pale, black spot just behind the head. Large specimens can be up to 40 inches long. Sea bass is best cooked simply to preserve its delicate flavor. It can be pan fried, roasted whole in a foil package or baked in a salt crust.
Cut a large sea bass fillet (weighing at least 1 pound) into two pieces. Score the skin with a sharp knife and rub with salt and a herb such as fresh thyme. Fry skin side down in hot olive oil, pressing the fillet down with your fingers or a spatula for the first 30 seconds to prevent it from curling up. Turn the fillet when flesh has turned from pale pink to translucent at least half the way through. Serve the fillet skin side up as soon as it has cooked through.
Score the skin of a whole sea bass (with the scales, head and entrails removed) with a sharp knife and season with salt. Place on a sheet of tin foil at least twice as long and wide as the fish. Fill the cavity of the fish with fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or parsley. Form the foil into an airtight but loose parcel and place on a tray in the centre of an oven preheated to 220 degrees Celsius. Cook for around 15 minutes.
Place a whole sea bass, with the head and scales untouched but the entrails removed, on an inch-deep layer of coarse sea salt sprinkled on an oven tray. Fill the cavity of the fish with fresh herbs such as thyme or parsley. Cover the fish with more sea salt until it is completely enclosed in salt. Place in the middle of an over preheated to 200 degrees Celsius and cook for 20 minutes for a 1-pound fish. Remove the cooked fish from the oven and crack the salt crust, removing all the pieces with care.
Choose wild sea bass instead of farmed fish for better flavor. Sea bass goes well with sauces and garnishes made with lemon, capers, garlic and rosemary. Stop cooking sea bass as soon as its flesh has turned white as overcooking make fish dry.