Turkish Poached Sea Bass and Bulgur Pilaf

Oh.My.God. I made the best Turkish meal ever tonight. I found it in my Turkish cook book while browsing for ideas yesterday and it sounded like the right combination of challenging and doable. So I invited two of our friends for Sunday night dinner, shopped for all the ingredients, and started cooking.

My dad is Turkish and I have had many Turkish meals in my life, both on our summer vacations to the Turkish coast and at home in Germany. As a kid, I never appreciated the rich flavors of Turkish foods and hated how many vegetables those meals contained. But, in more recent years, especially since I moved to the U.S. in 2006, I have craved Turkish food pretty much all the time. We always want what we can’t have, I guess.

But, now I can have it! My cookbook, Sultan’s Kitchen, is full of delicious recipes. One time, Dave and I made a three course meal with it for his family in Portland, OR, and it was a great success. And I’ve made stuffed grape leaves several times since. But the sea bass recipe was a new one.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe:

Sea Bass Poached with Herbs and Raki in Parchment 


  • 2 bunches scallions, finely chopped, white parts only (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill (I used jared dill)
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh mint
  • 2 teaspoons paprika (I didn’t have any, so I left it out)
  • 1 teaspoon red cayenne pepper
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 sea bass filets (total weight about 2 pounds)
  • 4 fresh or dried bay leaves (I used dried)
  • 2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced (3/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, plus 4 thin lemon slices
  • 1/4 cup virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup raki (anise flavored liqueur) or ouzo (I used Yeni Raki we brought from Germany last summer)

Directions: (copied from Sultan’s Kitchen by Ozcan Ozan, 1998)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut 4 pieces of parchment paper into rectangles large enough to enclose a fillet of fish.

In a bowl, mix the scallions, parsley, dill, mint, paprika, and red pepper. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat the butter. Brush each piece of parchment with the butter and place a fillet in the center of each sheet lengthwise. Place a bay leaf on top of each fillet. Evenly distribute the scallion-and-herb mixture among the parcels. Place the tomatoes, green peppers, and sliced lemon on top. Sprinkle each parcel with 1 tablespoon each of the lemon juice, olive oil, raki, and water. Season with salt and pepper.

Make an envelope out of the parchment by bringing the top and bottom edges of the parchment together in the center over the fillet, and folding them down together (as if you were folding down the top of a lunch bag) to enclose the fish tightly. Twist both ends like a candy wrapper and fold them under the fillet. Moisten the tops of the packages with a little water to help make a tight seal. Place the packages on a baking tray and bake them for about 25 minutes.

To serve, open the packages halfway (be careful of the steam) and place on package on each plate.


Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here are some fun pictures from the cooking process.


Chopping scallions and parsley to get the show on the road. Turkish cooking always seems to start with chopping – lots of chopping. Parsley, mint, dill, coriander, you name it.


Chopping Italian peppers while the tomatoes were soaking in hot water to make them easier to peel.


Peeling tomatoes is another thing most Turkish recipes call for. It’s really easy after soaking them though – the skin comes off by just pulling at it.


Then I seeded them by scooping out the insides with a small spoon.


Here are all the chopped up goodies mixed together in a bowl.


Next, I cut up the parchment paper in rectangles and spread hot butter on each piece.


Here are the sea bass fillets loaded in all their glory. My mouth started watering at this point. The herbs all smelled heavenly.


One fillet after I sprinkled it with lemon juice, olive oil, raki, and water – all ready to be wrapped up in parchment paper.


The four fillets, ready for the oven.


Aaaaand finally, the opened sea bass package and the bulgur pilaf (we made the pilaf with tomatoes, onions, and Italian sweet peppers, plus some parsley).


We all decided to take the fish out of the packages, which allowed the liquids to spread on the plate. We used some bread to soak it up, and it added some great flavor to the already delicious, nutty bulgur. Naturally, we had Raki with our meal (a third of a glass of Raki and two thirds of a glass of water for the milky complexion and some good anise flavor).


Desert was red wine cream (a German desert from the box – red wine, whipping cream, and a powder mix – which my mom tends to make on holidays) and some actual red wine. I had this sitting in my cabinet since we saw my parents in Oregon for the holidays, and today seemed as good a time as any to make it. Plus, this made our dinner half Turkish, half German – much like me.

We ended the evening watching our travel video from our trip to Turkey last summer – a nice way to demonstrate to our friends that life giveth and life taketh away, although they were good sports and said it was very interesting. Ah, we’re turning into old people that want to show their photo albums to whoever is lured into their home by the promise of a good dinner. Sigh.

1 Comment

Filed under recipes, seafood, Turkish

One response to “Turkish Poached Sea Bass and Bulgur Pilaf

  1. Pingback: Quiet Monday «

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