Sea Bass with Sweet & Sour Savoy Cabbage (Spigola con Verza in Agro-Dolce)

During our recent trip to Sardinia, we had a nice dinner at Albisbe4 in Alghero. As secondo piatto I had sea bass with sweet & sour savoy cabbage that I really enjoyed, and so I decided to recreate something similar at home. The combination of tender sea bass with crispy skin and crunchy sweet and sour cabbage works very well. The sea bass can be cooked either sous-vide or in the oven.

European sea bass, which I have seen in the USA under its French name loup de mer, is one of my favorite fishes. It is not as prone to drying out as sea bream (daurade in French). If European sea bass is not available in your area, feel free to substitute with another type of fish.

Ingredients

For 4 servings

4 sea bass fillets, with skin

450 grams (1 lb) cleaned savoy cabbage, in ribbons

1 clove garlic, minced

120 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine

1 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

extra virgin olive oil

flour for dusting

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole. Add the minced clove of garlic and stir briefly over medium heat.

Add the savoy cabbage. (Make sure to remove the tough central vein from the savoy cabbage before slicing into wide ribbons.)

Add the white wine.

Add the sugar.

Add the vinegar. Season with salt. Stir to mix.

Cover and braise the cabbage over medium heat…

…until it is tender but firm to the bite.

Uncover and increase the heat, and stir the cabbage until it starts to caramelize, then turn off the heat.

Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Season the sea bass fillets with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

If cooking sous-vide, brush lightly with olive oil (so the fish won’t get stuck to the plastic) and vacuum seal. Scald the vacuum sealed fish for 10-20 seconds in hot (over 80C/180F or boiling) water to sanitize the outside, then cool off immediately in cold water.

Then cook sous-vide for 15-30 minutes at 48C/118F.

After cooking sous-vide, pat the skin side dry with paper towels, and dust with flour. Score the skin diagonally, 2 or 3 times, to prevent the fish from curling up when you fry it on the skin.

Fry the sea bass fillets briefly in oil over very high heat, just until the skin is brown and crispy. Make sure not to burn the skin.

Click here for instructions how to cook the sea bass in the oven instead of using sous-vide.

Serve the fish on a bed of cabbage, skin side up, on preheated plates.

Wine pairing

Since the inspiration for this dish came from Sardinia, it was appropriate to pair it with a Vermentino from that island. Scialà from the Surrau winery has a couple of grams of residual sugar, which is just enough to work with the sugar in the cabbage.

Flashback

This dish from the neighboring isle of Corsica is an appropriate flashback for today’s recipe from Sardinia. Aubergines à la Bonifacienne is a tasty way to serve eggplant.

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12 thoughts on “Sea Bass with Sweet & Sour Savoy Cabbage (Spigola con Verza in Agro-Dolce)

  1. Very moreish in my book but I somewhat question as to how Italian its presentation 🙂 ? All of Northern Europe loves sweet-sour cabbage and tho’ recipes abound they are similar to yours. In some countries there is a tendency to add a tad of ‘real’ sauerkraut to emphasise the taste . . .No, sea bass, I am told, is not available in Australia but our beloved barramundi happily slips in instead !!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Eha, this is not a traditional combination in Italy. The chef at this restaurant is creative. The cabbage aspect is very Italian (although more common in the north) and sea bass is usually served whole rather than as a fillet. I’ve emailed you a photo of how it was served at the restaurant. Barramundi would work well with this. When I was in Australia, I noticed a large variety of barramundi in terms of farmed versus wild and in terms of ‘muddy’ versus clean flavor. The muddy version reminded me of what fresh water fish often tastes like around here.

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      1. Thanks teach’ ! Now I have friends in Sydney taking notes 🙂 ! Perchance you should not have sent me the photo . . . yours looks most moreish and copiable . . . the ‘other one’ pips it by a minuscule fraction as looking a tad softer and more moist . . . ?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. At the restaurant the fish was not as tender and juicy, and the skin wasn’t as crispy. It was also served with the skin down. At the restaurant it was simply pan fried, so you can’t get the same quality as with sous vide or the oven.

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  2. I’m definitely going to try European sea bass when we return to Europe early next year, this recipe sounds wonderful! I’m just getting used to crispy fish skin although I haven’t had it often which is probably why I’m not really used to it!

    Liked by 1 person

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