Dish off the Block: Striped bass

Thu, 09/19/2019 - 6:00pm

The stripers are running.

I grew up in a fishing family where fresh bluefish and stripers were often on the menu. My father treated striper fishing as a science, determining what time of day they would feed, how the weather affected their habits, and what beaches they would be lingering at, waiting for one of his hand-rigged eels. In 1984, he landed a 62-pound ‘cow’ surf-casting off Black Rock beach… the world record at the time was 78 pounds. To this day, the only photo he carries in his wallet is of him and that fish.

Me? I prefer them a little smaller because the meat will be more tender and less ‘woody’ in texture. My favorite way to prepare striper is alla puttanesca, a spicy red sauce dotted with briny capers and olives:

Striped bass alla puttanesca

2 to 3 pounds striped bass filets, skinned (or any firm white fish)

2 Tbsp. Cajun seasoning (recipe below or your favorite brand)

¼ cup olive oil, plus 1 Tbsp.

1 large onion, chopped

6 large garlic cloves, chopped

3 anchovy filets

2 tsp. red pepper flakes

24 oz. jar spaghetti sauce (your favorite brand or homemade – three cups)

3.5 oz. jar capers

Two 2.5 oz. cans black olives, sliced

Cut the striped bass filets into 6- to 8-inch pieces (so they are a manageable size to work with in the pan). Remove any of the dark brown flesh from the bottom of the filets (this part of the meat has a very strong flavor). Rub the filets all over on both sides with the Cajun spice mix.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add the fillets and brown on each size for 2 to 3 minutes until golden. Note — the fish will not be cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the same pan and sauté onions, garlic and anchovy filets until soft and fragrant. The anchovies will begin to break apart and will eventually ‘melt’ into the sauce — be not afraid — they add great umami.

Add the pepper flakes, spaghetti sauce, capers and black olives to the pan. Cook for 3 minutes until lightly bubbling, stirring frequently.

Add the fish back into the pan and continue to cook on medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until the fish is cooked through and flakes easily (this timing will vary depending on the thickness of the filets). 

Serve with salad and crusty bread.

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