Bass is one of those food names that has come to mean less and less, and by the end of this, you may be sorry you asked.

Bass, or sea bass, is one of two closely related species of fish that range from the Black Sea through the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic from the westernmost point of Africa up to Norway. Everyone from at least the first century A.D. has agreed that it has exceptional flavor, very few small bones, and holds together well after cooking.

Beyond that, the term "bass" is used to name various fish that seem to be more or less related to the European fish, including the whole grouper family. In this country, the striped bass is considered the apex of bass-dom, but the black sea bass is another very worthy fish that people seem to agree should be classified as a bass. But the squeteague or weakfish, which has been called the white sea bass, the red drum, which can be called the channel bass, the sadly named wreckfish, which is often called the stone bass, and a huge grouper, which is called the giant sea bass, are less legitimate candidates for the bass category. And the freshwater large-mouth, small-mouth, red-eye, rock, and spotted bass are all members of the sunfish family.

And that leads us to your Chilean sea bass, which is not a bass at all, but, according to ichthyologists, the Patagonian toothfish. It is found only in the southern hemisphere and usually weighs about 20 pounds. In this country, it is generally available in steaks or fillets, seldom whole. It also has a delicious flavor and is a moderately oily fish. For this reason, it does very well on the grill (oily enough so that it doesn’t stick), but should not be deep fried (enough oil already). You can also bake it, braise it, or pan fry it.