This easy recipe for Olive-encrusted Pacific Seabass with Provencal Vegetables is my homage to the allure of Cannes and the fabulous seafood we had there.
Gaston Gastounette in Cannes
Instead of eating like President Nicolas Sarkozy and dining at La Petite Maison in Nice (widely known to be the favorite restaurant of the French president), we decided to eat like the locals. The very helpful and congenial concierge staff at the Carlton, recommended Gaston Gastounette and La Cave to experience seafood and Provencal style cuisine.
The French were on strike (not uncommon) and all transportation was being affected. Our first day in Cannes turned into a 10:00 p.m. arrival due to a 5-hour delay at Charles de Gaulle airport and the two hours it took us to get our baggage in Nice – both directly related to the ongoing strike in France. We couldn’t get the rental car that we had reserved and ended up taking a very expensive taxi ride to get to our hotel and adjusting our plan to drive up the coast. But there are worse things than being stuck in Cannes!
The debonair concierge,Jean Michelle, arranged dinner reservations for us on Friday night at Gaston Gastounette; considered the city’s premier seafood establishment, Gaston Gastounette is consistently named by Cannes regulars as the best place to get your fruits de la mer. The restaurant also has a magnificent view over the old port. According to one Cannes Festival guide, if you’re attending the festival, make sure you book in advance as this restaurant is popular.
Gaston Gastounette is sophisticated without being pretentious and, the meal we had was extraordinary. It wasn’t the kind of place where you whip out your phone and take photos so I only have fond memories. However, I do like to try and recreate beautiful meals that we experience in our travels and this was my attempt at recreating the fabulous fresh-caught sea bream dish that I enjoyed that first night in Cannes.
Sea bream is a mild white fish, very popular in Europe and distinguished by its flat body shape. With no sea bream in the markets here, I purchased Pacific white sea bass, a sustainable fish that is available in thick, flavorful steaks and not to be confused with Chilean sea bass which is on the Seafood Watch Avoid list because the species is so depleted.
Olive-encrusted Seabass with Provencal Vegetables
- 1 medium eggplant halved lengthwise, then quartered, chopped small
- 2 small zucchini halved lengthwise, then halved again, chopped small
- 1 yellow bel pepper cored and seeded, sliced into strips, chopped small
- 3 tablespoons sun dried tomato packed in oil, drained and chopped
- 1 cup chopped fresh roasted tomatoes*
- 1 shallot finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided use
- 2 - 6-8 ounce steaks
- 1/3 cup picholine olives pit removed and finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spread the eggplant in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet, drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
In a large skillet heat the remaining 2 oil over med-high heat. Add chopped zucchini and pepper and sauté for five minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the shallots, garlic and eggplant and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the sun dried tomatoes, roasted tomato, salt and herbs and cook for another 30 minutes until liquid is cooked down. The vegetable mixture should be moist but not like a sauce.
Prepare the fish: Rinse the steaks and pat dry with paper towels. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Spread the chopped olives on top of each steak, pressing to adhere. Gently place the steaks in the skillet, olive side up. Cook for about 4 minutes, gently turn over and cook for about 3 more minutes. The fish should be opaque nearly all the way through and flake under gentle pressure.
Mound the Provencal vegetables on plates, place the fish on top, garnish with drizzles of olive oil and a sprinkle of chives or green onions. Shown served with polenta.
Dinner for two will leave you with plenty of vegetables for an omelet, wrap, or served with rice for another delicious meal.
Take a minute to enjoy these beautiful photos of Cannes.