Tom Colicchio Fishes for His Supper
by scott feldman
Colicchio’s pan-roasted striped bass
When he’s not dishing out advice on Top Chef or busy at work on his new East End restaurant and inn, Topping Rose House, which will open by summer’s end, you’ll find award-winning chef Tom Colicchio relaxing on the North Fork, where a typical weekend includes “fishing and a trip to Sang Lee Farms or KK’s The Farm. Then it’s off to cook—some of the best fish are at Southold Fish Market.”
What are some of your favorite local ingredients to cook with?
Fish. I don’t plan my menu until I’m at the farmers’ market. Recently I bought some eggs from Browder’s Birds that were excellent.
As a fishing enthusiast, what is the best catch on the East End and where do you go?
In late summer you can get bonito on a fly rod; it’s a great eating fish. Inshore there’s striped bass, and bigeye tuna and white marlin offshore. I like Gardiners Bay and Sammy’s Beach.
What do you like most about being on Top Chef?
Mentoring a new generation of chefs and kid viewers who now care about food and eating. The obesity and hunger crises are major problems, so teaching people about food is a great part of my job. That’s why my wife, Lori [Silverbush], her business partner, Kristi [Jacobson], and I made the documentary A Place at the Table—to inspire and provide a catalyst for a solution.
If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
Maybe an oyster farmer or a fishing guide. I’d love to make a living doing that.*
Pan-Roasted Striped Bass
2 tbsp. peanut oil
4 1-inch-thick, center-cut striped bass filets (about 6 oz. each), skin on
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme
Coarse sea salt
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it slides easily across pan. Dry filets thoroughly with paper towels, season with kosher salt and pepper on both sides, then add skin-side down to the skillet. Reduce heat (oil should sizzle not sputter) and cook filets until skin is crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn filets to brown other side, about another 3 minutes.
Add butter and thyme to pan. Continue cooking the filets, turning them over once or twice (so that they brown evenly), and basting with the lightly browning butter. Cook until the fish is opaque, about 4 minutes more.
Serve at once, drizzled with browned butter and sprinkled with coarse sea salt.
*Read more from Feldman's interview with Colicchio on our East End Eats blog
photography by bill bettencourt (colicchio); recipe courtesy of Think Like a Chef (Clarkson Potter, 2000)