In this showstopping surf-and-surf main dish, chef Rosner combines Morro Bay oysters with citrus-marinated sea bass.
Grilled Sea Bass with Roasted Oysters
For the cilantro pesto
- 1 packed cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, stems and leaves
- 1 packed cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup grapeseed, or other neutral cooking oil
- 2 Tbs. toasted pine nuts
- 2 large cloves garlic, finely grated
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, more to taste
For the sea bass
- 1/2 cup champagne vinegar
- 16 kaffir lime leaves, 8 thinly sliced
- 1/2 Tbs. yuzu koshu
- 1 Tbs. finely grated fresh ginger
- 1 tsp. granulated sugar
- Kosher sea salt
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- One 2-lb. piece skinless sea bass
For the vegetables
- 1 large fennel bulb, stalks and fronds intact
- 3 medium leeks, white and light green parts only
- 10 oz. multicolor cherry tomatoes
- 1/4 cup olive oil, more for the grill
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large Fresno pepper cut into thin rings for garnish, optional
For the oysters
- 1 cup tamari
- 1 Tbs. finely grated orange zest
- 2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
- 1 Tbs. finely grated lemon zest
- 24 oysters
Make the cilantro pesto
- Combine all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender occasionally, as needed, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use.
Marinate the sea bass
- Combine the vinegar and the thinly sliced lime leaves in a small bowl. Cover and leave at room temperature overnight. Strain the vinegar and discard the leaves.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, yuzu koshu, grated ginger, sugar, and 1 tsp. of the salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking continuously. Season to taste with salt. Put the fish in a large rimmed baking dish, pour the marinade over the fish and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Make the vegetables
- Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat, (400 to 450°F).
- Cut away the stalks and fronds from the fennel bulb, and reserve. Peel the bulb with a vegetable peeler, and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut the leeks in half lengthwise. Arrange the vegetables on a large rimmed baking sheet. Brush them with the oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Oil the grill. Grill the vegetables in batches if necessary, turning occasionally and transferring to a large serving platter as they become tender and charred, about 15 minutes total for the fennel, about 12 minutes total for the leeks, and about 3 minutes total for the tomatoes. Drizzle the vegetables with half of the pesto, reserving the rest for serving. Lightly tent the platter with foil.
Make the oysters
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the tamari and citrus zests to make a ponzu sauce. Shuck the oysters; leaving them in their shells with the liquor. Add 2 tsp. of the ponzu to each oyster. Put the oysters on the grill and cook until just heated through, about 1 minute. Transfer the oysters to the platter with the fish, arranging them around the outer edge. Add 1 tsp. of the ponzu sauce to each oyster, and replace the foil.
Grill the sea bass and serve
- Remove the fish from the marinade and lightly pat dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade. Season both sides of the fish generously with salt. Put the fish to one side of the grill, top side down, and grill until it begins to char, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange the reserved fennel stalks, fronds, and kaffir lime leaves in a layer up against the side of the fish. Flip the fish over onto the vegetable bed and grill until the fish is cooked through, about 8 additional minutes. When the fish is done, transfer to the platter with the vegetables and oysters, laying it on top of the vegetables. Garnish with the Fresnos, if using. Serve with the remaining pesto and ponzu.