Friday, August 10, 2012

Baked Branzino

My husband is picky with seafood.  I might have mentioned that before.  He is more picky than our 3 year old daughter who when asked what food she likes proudly responds, "fish and rice!"  But finally, for the record, I got dear husband to eat fish off a baked whole branzino that I cooked.  What I mean is usually he would only eat filleted fish.  For some reason he cannot stomach the sight of a whole fish with head, bones and tail served on the table  However on one of our dinner dates at Angelini Osteria I was intrigued when he said he would want to try their branzino dish one day, a whole branzino baked in a crust of salt.  His comment gave me hope. I thought perhaps I could entice him with grilled whole fish in the form of branzino.  I had a feeling he would be more open to trying branzino because he saw it prepared in a fancy restaurant and also because it sounded Italian.  Silly, I know.  But I do think he is racist when it comes to fish.  No kidding.  He dislikes tilapia which he usually sees swimming inside fish tanks at the Asian market.

I brought up the suggestion one day, mentioning that I saw some fresh looking branzino at Whole Foods. However I had to promise him that if I cook it whole I would debone the fish first before plating his. He agreed.  I was smiling from ear to ear, the guy have no idea how delicious the meat is near the bones (which is going to be all mine).

So I went to Whole Foods to get the branzino.  I think it has become a regular on their iced cases.  The price was right, $11.99 a pound, and the fish had gleaming clear eyes which means they are fresh.  Each branzino ran about 1 to 1.5 lbs each.  I bought 2 pieces because I  was not confident one would be enough for the three of us considering the 3-year-old could easily eat half a fish.

Whole fish is easy to cook and cooks quickly.  You need only to drizzle some olive oil, salt and some herbs, throw it on the grill or oven and that's it.  I would prefer mine grilled but on this day we ran out of propane to fire the grill so I had to cook it in the oven.

Baked Branzino with Gremolata

1 bunch cilantro (1/2 portion coarsely chopped)
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts separated (thinly slice green parts)
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup drained capers
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lime, zested and juiced
1 lime, thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
2 whole branzino, about 1-2 lbs each, have the fishmonger scale and clean the fish
coarse sea salt and black pepper

1. Prepare the gremolata by combining the chopped cilantro, sliced scallions,  jalapeño, capers and garlic in a bowl.  Finely grate the zest of one lime and then squeeze in its juice.  Add 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Cover and let sit until needed.

2. Cook the fish.  Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Pat dry each fish with paper towel then drizzle olive oil over each fish to coat.  Season each fish inside the cavity and outside with salt and black pepper.  Divide the lime slices, remaining cilantro sprigs, scallions (white part) between the two fish. Transfer fish to baking sheet and place in the 450° oven.  Cook fish for 15 to 20 minutes or until just opaque and flakes easily when pierced with a fork.

3. Serve fish with gremolata on top.

*A good side for this dish is a mango salsa

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