This grilled sea bass recipe is my own creation although it was certainly inspired by Southern French Mediterranean cooking. You do see leaves used to wrap fish and other things in Mediterranean cuisine quite often. I was looking for a way to grill a handful of beautiful sea bass filets that were fresh in the market. I didn’t want to destroy them by either having them fall apart on the grill or getting totally dried out. Sea bass has an amazing natural flavor so it doesn’t need a lot of artifices to make it taste good, but it does need to be handled appropriately to avoid the problems I mentioned which can plague grilled fish recipes if you don’t know what you are doing. Frankly, this turned out fantastically! Just look how glisteningly juicy and delicious that piece of grilled sea bass looks!
In general, there are a number of ways to cook fish on a grill. Grilling a whole fish with scales and all is one way to protect the tender inner flesh. The skin and scales help shield the flesh from the direct heat while the fish steams in its own juices inside. Cedar planking, fish baskets and indirect heating are all other methods that can be used to help preserve the tender flesh of your favorite fish.
However, for this grilled sea bass recipe I didn’t have a whole fish, just these big thick beautiful filets. So I decided to try something new and wrap them up in grape leaves, which you can usually find jarred in markets, often intended for Greek-style stuffed things like dolma. You could use other thick leafs instead. For example, whole fish is often wrapped up in large fig leaves before grilling.
What You Need for this Grilled Sea Bass Recipe:
- Grape leaves: Again, you can usually find these in good markets in jars. If you are lucky enough to have access to fresh grape leaves, you can use those but be sure they are fresh and not dried out or you will not be able to fold them around the fish filets. You need a lot of leaves because you use more than one leaf for each filet you wrap.
- Sea bass filets: You can use other fish as well, but I think the creamy rich flavor of good sea bass does really well with this preparation. If you don’t use sea bass, you may choose to add a bit more salt or other flavoring agents to boost the flavor but I like the simplicity of fennel and lemon here.
- Fennel stalks and greens: You don’t use the bulb for this recipe, save it for something else. What you want are the frilly greens at the top along with some of the greener stalks. If you don’t have fresh fennel available, you can use a couple pinches of fennel seed.
- Fresh Lemon: Sliced thinly into discs.
- Kitchen twine
How to Cook this Grilled Sea Bass Recipe:
- Once you have your ingredients ready, start by cutting several long lengths of kitchen twine. Lay two of these crossing in a 90 degree angle in the middle of a platter or plate.
- Next, carefully take the grape leaves out of the jar. They are usually packed in their pretty tight so you have to be slow and gentle getting them out without tearing them. Once out, take your time to gently peal the individual leaves apart. This can be a bit tricky and is the most time consuming part of this process. You want to keep as many whole, un-torn leaves as possible as these are much more useful for wrapping than little pieces.
- Once the leaves are separated, use several leaves to cover the kitchen twine on the plate, large enough so that you will be able to wrap them over the top of one of your filets. I basically used 4 leaves facing out in each direction (stem side in together toward the middle. I think used another leaf or pieces of leaves to lay on top to fill in as many gaps as possible so that your plate is pretty much completely covered.
- Once you are happy with your grape leaf bed, lay a handful of fennel stalks and greens in the middle. Make sure they are cut short enough that the harder stalks aren’t much longer than your filet or it will interfere with folding the leaves later.
- Now you are ready to place the sea bass filet on top of the fennel and top with 2 or 3 slices of lemon. Good sea bass has a lot of flavor on its own so it usually doesn’t need any further seasoning. But if you are the salt-obsessed type, at this point you can also dust it lightly with a bit of mellow fine sea salt.
- Now, you can wrap up your packets. Gently fold over the edges of the grape leaves around the fennel, fish and lemon. If you have very large filets like mine, you may need to add another leaf or part of a leaf on top so that it is completely covered. Then lift up those lengths of kitchen twine and tie them one after another on top of the packet to keep the leaves secured in place.
- Next, you are ready to prepare your grill. You can do this over direct heat, but you don’t want a super high searing temperature. I got my grill up to about 400 degrees and then closed down the vents a bit to maintain the temperature around that range.
- Once ready, the grilled sea bass recipe packets can be placed directly on the lightly oiled grill grate. Close the lid and let the fish cook, only opening periodically to check the progress. The nice thing about this recipe is that the leaves and fennel help shield the filets from the direct heat, allowing them to kinda steam inside the leaf packets.
- The length of cooking time for this sea bass recipe really depends on too many factors to say an exact time. But for my big fat filets (which were about 2 inches thick at least) at approximately 400 degrees, this grilled sea bass recipe was done after about 20 minutes. If in doubt, you can always open one up to check, but with the wrapping, these are pretty forgiving if you go another minute or two longer, as long as your heat is under control and not scorchingly hot.
- Once done, gently use a tongs or spatula to transfer the packets to serving plates, allowing them to rest in the packet for a few minutes.
- Once ready, simply cut open the twine and gently peel off the grape leaves to ooohhs and aaaahhs!
Just look how moist and tender that sea bass looks! I’m not exaggerating that this was probably the best sea bass I’ve had! I hope you enjoy my grilled sea bass recipe!