If I could dispel any food myth, it would be that cooking fish is more finicky than cooking chicken breast or steak. I think fish tends to get a bad rep as being ‘bland’ or difficult to properly cook, and much of that most certainly has to do with the often poor selection of fish at regular grocery stores. Can you relate to buying fish from the store and it smelling — well, fishy!
Fresh fish really shouldn’t.
It should smell like the salty water it came from. My way around this is to first and foremost to always tell the manager of your local fish department if this happens they are aware of the issue. Forming a relationship with your fishmonger is not only a great way to ensure you’ll get the best service, but also a great way to learn about new ways to prepare seafood.
In my home kitchen, I like preparing a whole fish every once and a while. It may seem daunting if you’ve never tried making this at home before, but I assure you, it’s a completely doable task, even on a busy weeknight. When buying a whole fish, make sure the fish doesn’t have cloudy eyes (that’s the first sign that it isn’t fresh) — its eyes should be clear. The flesh of the fish should look healthy and plump and the fish should smell like the ocean. If you have a little bit of a trek to make with your fish before taking it home, make sure you ask for a bag of ice so the fish stays nice and cool. You can also ask your fishmonger to scale and gut the fish — it saves on prep time and means the fish is ready to go. I like to simply bake a whole fish in the oven with a few simple herbs and lemon — and in this case deliciously sweet roasted tomatoes!
You’ll know the fish is ready when it falls off the bone, or, in other words, when it’s easy to remove the spine. If the bones are sticking to the flesh, the fish needs a few more minutes in the oven, Once you do this a couple times, you’ll quickly get used to the process and be able to tell if the fish is ready. Like so many things in cooking, practice really does make perfect. When the fish is cooked though, you can really easily peel off the skin (with a small pairing knife or by simply pulling it off). With the fish on its side, you can then slice along the backbone with a sharp fileting knife to free the fillet. Once the backbone is removed, the second fillet will almost come off on its own.
These roasted tomatoes might be the star of the show though — as they bake, they become incredibly sweet and plump — a real treat, especially when topped with a little fleur de sel. I serve the dish with crisp green beans with a drizzle of olive oil, but a simple salad would be lovely as well.
Whole Branzino with Roasted Tomatoes
1 1/2 lb whole branzino, gutted and scaled
1 lemon, sliced
About a dozen cherry tomatoes, on the vine
2 clove of garlic, peeled and halved
6 sprigs of thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bake in 400°F oven until fish is cooked through and easily detaches from bone, about 25 minutes. Discard thyme sprigs and garlic. Bake the tomatoes for another 10 minutes, or until they starts blistering. Serve with fish, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and extra lemon wedges. Enjoy!
Enjoy the read!