Crispy Whole Mediterranean Branzino
Thirty years ago you found this wild Mediterranean fish only in southern European countries. In Italy it’s called branzino, in France it’s known as loup de mer, in Greece lavraki, and in Portugal robalo. Today it’s probably the second most popular upscale farmed fish in the world, after salmon. While it still swims wild, the farmed variety is delicious too. Neither bland like tilapia nor strong like bluefish, the flavor is acceptable to the majority of palates.
When I’ve served whole fish to guests, I’ve been asked more than once if I can debone it for them. What don’t they understand? It’s a whole fish. WHOLE! I just put a whole fish on everyone’s plate and let them eat it how they want. I encourage you to do the same. Believe me, people get over their whole-fish phobia fast and learn to navigate around bones when they’re hungry. I may sound tough, but I know they can do it, and of course I’m always there to help. Again, the goal is for everyone to feel comfortable with fish. If you want to do the work for your guests, go to Citarella.com, and I’ll show you how to fillet a fish after you’ve cooked it.
When I order a whole fish in a restaurant and it comes boned, to me, that’s not whole! Hello? Many restaurants here in America cater to the percentage of the population who don’t like bones—or heads or tails for that matter— which is a shame, because those parts have purpose. During cooking, the bones help protect the flesh, keeping it moist and juicy, which is true with most any meat.
Makes 2 servings
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the grates and for serving
- 2 (1-pound) whole branzini, cleaned
- Sea salt to taste
- 2 to 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
Preheat your stovetop grill pan or outdoor grill over the highest heat. Brush or spray the grates with oil.
Rinse the fish and pat them dry with paper towels, both inside and out. Put them in a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Using your hands, rub the oil evenly all over both sides of the fish and inside the bellies.
Season with salt and place the rosemary inside the bellies. Place the fish on the preheated grill and cook for 5 minutes. Then, using tongs, carefully pick the fish up by the head, flip it over, and grill for another 5 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t move it. Don’t touch it. Just wait the entire 5 minutes, then drizzle with olive oil to finish and serve immediately.
Excerpted from “Joe Knows Fish,” © 2018 by Joe Gurrera. Reproduced by permission. All rights reserved.