Camilla chose Whole Fish/Seafood for our theme. The only time I have made whole fish was many years ago when we were visiting Frank's cousin, Eugene, up north and he brought home some Brook Trout that he had just caught. He cleaned the fish and left it whole, I seasoned it with salt and pepper, stuffed it with some onions, lemons and tomatoes, wrapped it in foil and threw it on the grill. This was nearly twenty years ago and my mouth still waters whenever I remember that meal.
I was excited when Cam chose this theme and anxious to try my hand at a Whole Fish again. I wasn't sure what I was going to make. I was actually wishing that it was a little later in the year. In a couple of weeks the Smelt will be running in Michigan and sometimes, when I am lucky and the Smelt is plentiful, some of our friends who go Smelt dipping share with us. Smelt are tiny little fish. When my Pops would bring them home my Mom would snip off their heads and slice their bellies. I was in charge of rinsing out the innards and throwing them in seasoned flour. Pops would fry them up and you eat them....bones, tail and all....kind of like french fries. So delicious!!!
The fish market had several whole fish from which to choose. Whiting which I have never tried but plan on doing so soon. Flounder which is delicious but I wasn't sure how you would cook a whole flounder and Branzini, a sea bass from Greece. I have had Branzini once before in a restaurant while on vacation and it was delicious. I decided that this was the fish I would prepare for today.
I seasoned the fish inside and out liberally with kosher salt and lemon pepper seasoning. Then I stuffed the cavity of the fish with lemons, fennel bulb and fennel fronds. I drizzled the entire fish with some Tuscan Herb Olive Oil and topped it with more lemon slices, placed it in a hot oven for 15 minutes and dinner was served!
I wanted to show the whole fish once it was roasted in the spirit of this theme, however when serving it to guests you may want to remove the head. Many people find that opaque eye unsettling. I roasted one fish for Frank and I to share and served it up after removing it from the carcass. The flesh slips right away from the bones and skin.
I served it up with a tomato and mozzarella salad and a side of mac and cheese. The Branzini was flaky and a light white meat. It is better suited for a lighter side, perhaps some rice or roasted vegetables but Frank was hankering for some Mac and Cheese so that was what he got. I paired the fish with a Les Dauphins Cotes du Rhone that I posted about in last week's WinePW.
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