Zak and I decided to venture over to the West Side Market after a lovely lunch at Nate’s Deli to pick up some fresh fish and perhaps a vegetable or two. After strolling around and checking out the options, we settled on a whole branzini, also known as bronzini, European sea bass, or Mediterranean sea bass, at Kate’s Fish. I am always so happy to have taken a trip to the West Side Market, because we always return with a gem and have a great time shopping.
I love whole fish, first because it’s incredibly easy. I was very intimidated the first time I bought one to cook, but now it’s my go-to choice for when I’m feeling a tad lazy but want guaranteed results. I make sure the fishmonger has it scaled and gutted, perhaps with the fins cut off. You basically need to follow a simple formula of rubbing with oil, seasoning, stuffing with aromatics, and then grilling, roasting, or steaming. Another advantage is the serious price reduction versus a steak or fillet. Finally, the flavor is excellent. As any cook worth their salt should be well aware, bones, cartilage, and skin are more or less synonymous with flavor and moisture. Unlike a standard fish fillet or steak, a whole fish has all three.
I prepared this lovely whole bronzini as simply as possible. Olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemons go perfectly with fish. The simple seasoning and high-heat roasting resulted in a moist and succulent fish that allowed the flavors of the bronzini to shine through. I served this with some asparagus similarly prepared with a quick toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper and roasted in the oven.
Lemon Roasted Whole Bronzini
1 1 and 1/3 pound head on, whole bronzini
3-4 tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tbs. black pepper
1 lemon, thinly sliced
Preheat oven to 450º.
Make sure fish is gutted and scaled. Cut off all fins except the tail fin. Rub liberally, inside and out, with olive oil. Season both sides and the body cavity with salt and pepper. Stuff most of the lemon slices in the body cavity and lay a few on top of the fish.
Transfer the fish to a glass casserole dish in which it can lay flat.
Transfer to the oven and roast 25-35 minutes, until flesh flakes easily with a fork and reaches the internal temperature of 145º.
Serve immediately with extra lemon wedges for serving.