Sea Bass Fillets with Mushroom Beurre Noisette

Makes 4 servings
Time: about 1 hour

The vegetarian mushroom jus in this dish is a lesson in combining a few simple flavors to produce something rich and almost luxurious without meat or much time. Really, most of the work goes into this component and the vegetable garnish; the fish requires only a few minutes to cook. Like many of Jean-Georges's dishes, it demonstrates that simplicity can pack a real wallop.

Beurre noisette is simply butter cooked until it browns. As long as you don't overcook it, it's simple stuff (and, if you do overdo it, it becomes beurre noir, or black butter-a legitimate variation).

8 ounces white mushrooms, washed and sliced
7 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 hazelnuts
2 almonds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
Salt
10 pearl onions, peeled and halved
20 lima or peeled fava beans
4 (6-ounce) sea bass, red snapper, or other fillets
Large bowl ice water
Pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 cup cream
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram or oregano

1. Combine the mushrooms and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet and turn the heat to high. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, then drizzle with the honey. When the mushrooms brown-the natural sugars in the honey will cause this to happen quickly-add the juice, vinegar, and soy sauce, and pour into a small saucepan.

2. Add 1 cup water to the skillet in which you browned the mushrooms and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, for about 1 minute. Transfer the water to the saucepan and simmer this mixture over medium- low heat for about 30 minutes; a thin-bladed knife will meet little or no resistance when inserted into the thickest part.Then strain; reserve the liquid and discard the solids.

3. Meanwhile, combine the nuts, coriander, sesame seeds, and pepper in a small dry skillet; turn the heat to medium. Toast, shaking the pan occasionally, until the spices are fragrant, just a minute or two. Grind to a powder in a mortar and pestle or spice or coffee mill.

4. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes, or just until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and add the lima beans and cook for about 2 minutes, or just until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

5. Put 3 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir, scraping down the sides with a rubber spatula, until the butter foam subsides and the butter turns nut brown. Immerse the bottom of the pan in a bowl or pan of ice water to stop the cooking (this will only take 30 seconds or so), then keep warm over the lowest possible heat.

6. Put the nut and seed powder onto a plate, season the fillets with salt and cayenne and brush with cream on all sides. Dredge the flesh sides in the spice mixture and set aside.

7. Put the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet large enough to hold the fish in 1 layer (work in batches if you have to; you'll need a little more butter). Turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, add the fish and turn the heat to high. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, turning once, until the fish is cooked through.

8. Combine the mushroom stock and the beurre noisette and heat through; season to taste, then stir in the onions, beans, and tomatoes. Put each fish fillet in a bowl and surround with the broth and vegetables. Garnish with the marjoram and serve.