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This dish is a celebration of New England food pairing Massachusetts black sea bass with Maine-grown corn for polenta. Black Sea Bass is a quintessential East Coast native. A migratory species, these fish are plentiful in the New England fishing waters through the summer and early fall before they head back south for the winter. Our black sea bass is caught right here in Massachusetts.
Black sea bass is a delicate flaky white fish with a mild flavor and beautiful black skin. In the colder months, it pairs wonderfully with a hearty pot of rustic polenta. To bring this dish together, we serve it with a creamy mushroom sauce perfumed with fresh thyme.
We used Organic Corn Polenta from Maine Grains for this recipe. Their yellow flint corn is grown and milled in Maine. This high-quality coarse ground polenta cooks in just 15 minutes, but for other brands, you may need to increase the cooking time. We chose to cook the polenta in water to preserve the pure corn flavor, but you can also use other liquids, such as milk or vegetable stock. You can also finish your polenta with a couple tablespoons of butter, but we chose not to do that since it is paired with such a creamy sauce.
In a heavy-bottomed pot, bring the water and salt to a boil over high heat.
When water comes to a boil, gradually whisk in the polenta to prevent clumps.
Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and becomes tender, about 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and set aside with a lid on to keep warm while preparing the remaining components.
Melt butter in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and cook until the water releases and evaporates, about 5-6 minutes.
Stir in heavy cream and thyme. Increase heat if necessary to bring the cream to a simmer.
Gently simmer the cream to reduce for about 4-5 minutes, or until it reaches your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Lightly season the fish on both sides with salt and score the skin with a knife to reduce curling while it cooks.
Depending on your pan size, you may need to cook the fish in batches. Melt 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a medium to large sauté pan.
Add fillets skin-side down, making sure to not overcrowd the pan. Cook fish for 2-3 minutes on the skin side. Flip the fish over and cook for one more minute on the flesh side. Remove from heat.
Repeat with remaining fillets, if needed, until all the fish has been cooked.
Divide polenta into bowls. Spoon mushroom sauce over the polenta and top with a piece of black sea bass. Sprinkle extra thyme leaves on top for a burst of color.