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Recipe courtesy Daniel LaCroix/Critics Choice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (8 ounce fillets) fresh sea bass
1/4 cup Cognac or brandy
1/3 cup fish stock
Salt and pepper
1 bunch asparagus, blanched and refreshed
Sundried Tomato-Chardonnay Sauce, recipe follows
2 basil buds, for garnish
1 tomato, peeled seeded and small diced (1 tomato concassed), for garnish

In a flat plate, mix the basil, thyme, peppercorns, and garlic.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Encrust the fish with the fresh spice mix. Sauté the fish delicately, about 3 minutes per side.

Without removing the fillets from the pan, drain off most of the oil. Deglaze the pan with the Cognac. Tilt pan to flambé, allowing the flame to crisp the crust on the fish. Add the stock to extinguish the flambé, and to deglaze further.

Season with salt and pepper.

Divide asparagus between two serving plates, arranging the stalks decoratively. Carefully place sautéed fish on top of the asparagus. Drizzle the Sundried Tomato-Chardonnay sauce over and around the fish. Sprinkle the tomato concasse all over the plate. Place a basil bud on top of the fish.

Sundried Tomato-Chardonnay Sauce:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 tablespoons shallots
3 cups Chardonnay
1 fresh bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 large sun-dried tomato, chopped
1/2 pound butter, cut into small cubes

Heat olive oil in a saucepan, then add peppercorns and shallots. Sauté until translucent. Add the wine, bay leaf, lemon juice, and sun-dried tomato, and reduce by 80 percent. With a whisk, 3 to 4 cubes at a time, incorporate butter, making a beurre blanc sauce. Strain through chinois. Keep warm.

Yield: 2 servings

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes