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Herb-Steamed Whole Striped Bass With Fennel and Sweet Onion Soubise

Photo: Oxmoor House


Hands-on time 45 mins
Total time 1 hr, 20 mins
Yield Serves 8 (serving size: 6 ounces fish, 2 tablespoons sauce, and 1 tablespoon arugula)
It's generally recognized among serious cooks that cooking anything on the bone creates a moister, more flavorful result. This whole steamed fish is bombarded with an arsenal of brightness and pungency, as it's enveloped in everything from chopped herbs to minty-lemony steam. We make our soubise sans-cream, building body with fennel instead. The sauce alone will earn cheers for an encore.


  • 1 (3-lb.) whole striped bass
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 thinly sliced lemon
  • 2 bunches green onions, roots trimmed and left whole
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fennel fronds
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup razor thin fennel bulb
  • 1 cup razor thin sweet onion
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 8 dashes Tabasco
  • 4 generous handfuls arugula
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

Nutrition Information

  • calories 282
  • fat 13.5 g
  • satfat 2.4 g
  • monofat 7.5 g
  • polyfat 2.6 g
  • protein 34 g
  • carbohydrate 4 g
  • fiber 1 g
  • cholesterol 121 mg
  • iron 3 mg
  • sodium 282 mg
  • calcium 174 mg

How to Make It

  1. Ready a stacked-style bamboo steamer. You'll need two of the layers, one for steaming the onions and fennel soft, and another for the herbs and fish.


  3. Trim the fish per step by step below.

  4. Transfer to a plate and place in refrigerator, uncovered, for a moment. Alternatively, you can put the fish in a baking dish and cover with plenty of ice to, you know, ready the mood.


  6. Fill a Dutch oven (large enough to house your steamer) about two-thirds full with water. Throw in the mint and lemon slices.

  7. Bring to a raging boil, then taper to a steady, steamy boil.

  8. For the first bamboo steamer layer, lay down a bed of trimmed green onions as if to build a raft.

  9. Place the fish on top of the onions.

  10. In a small bowl, toss together the chopped tarragon, the parsley, the fennel fronds, and the thyme leaves.

  11. Sprinkle in an even layer on the top side of the fish.

  12. Sprinkle with the black pepper.

  13. Top the fish with another bamboo layer, and then add the shaved fennel bulb and the sweet onion to this top steamer.

  14. STEAM IT ALL! Cover the steamer stack, place over the simmering water, and steam for about 20 minutes before checking the fish. Depending on the size of the fish and the intensity of your steam, this can take anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes.

  15. Check the doneness of the onions and fennel. They should be soft after about 20 minutes of cooking time.

  16. When tender to the tooth, transfer to a blender and add the capers, oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and Tabasco. Blend until silky smooth.

  17. In the steamer layer that contained the onions and fennel, add the arugula, then cover and return the top steamer layer to the steamer stack.

  18. Steam 15 minutes, letting the arugula wilt while the fish is finding its way to completion. Turn off the heat.


  20. Find your most majestic serving platter--one that has plenty of depth for sauce.

  21. Once the fish is cooked through, pour half of the fennel sauce onto the base of the platter.

  22. Layer the green onions over the sauce.

  23. Now the fish. Then, the rest of the sauce. Sprinkle with 3/8 teaspoon of the salt.

  24. Top with the arugula. Hit it with the final 1/8 teaspoon of salt.

  25. Laboriously remove the lemons from the hot water. Place them indiscriminately around, on, and about the fish.

  26. Use tablespoons and forks to serve the fish.

  27. Step by Step: Trimming a Whole Fish 1) Using a pair of kitchen scissors, trim off the dorsal and pelvic fins. 2) Holding the edge of the pectoral fins, trim as closely to the fish's body as possible. 3) Move the fish to a cutting board, and score at a sharp angle all the way to the backbone, every inch or so.

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