As the fin-to-tail trend takes hold, whole fish are becoming a staple in restaurants. I like to prepare them at home because they're so easy to roast in the oven, and cooking them on the bone gives them much more flavour. Have the fishmonger fillet and butterfly the fish for you, but ask him to leave the skeleton attached to the head; the bones lend so much flavour. You then roast the fish, present it and discard the head and tail. Be sure to buy from a reputable monger, as you want the freshest fish for this dish; alongside the other simple ingredients, its delicate taste really comes through.
Servings: 2 to 4
2 whole branzino (sea bass) or orata (sea bream), about 1¼ pounds (300 grams) each
4 sprigs oregano
6 sprigs thyme
6 thin slices lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Open up the fish and place herbs and lemon slices in the cavity on either side of the bone.
Close the fish. Place fish on an oiled baking sheet. Brush fish with olive oil. Sprinkle with lemon juice and salt and pepper.
Place in oven and bake for 9 to 12 minutes or until the eye of the fish is white and the flesh is no longer pink.
Remove from oven.
Open the fish like a book and, with a knife and fork or tongs, lift off the skeleton and the head along with it. Cut off tail with a knife. Cut fish in half. Remove the skin, if desired, by lifting the fish off the skin with a spoon and spatula.
Place a fillet on each plate. Sprinkle with your best olive oil, lemon juice and a few chopped herbs. Serve with spinach and sautéed potatoes.