I love Branzino. It’s a sweet, delicately flavored fish from Greece that can be grilled, sauteed or roasted with minimal fuss. ShopFreshSeafood.com, the online seafood delivery company, recently sent a sampler package of Branzino and king salmon my way. It arrived smelling fresh and the Branzino was gutted and cleaned. All I needed to do was decide how I was going to prepare the beauties they sent me. The first night, I got out my large copper paella pan and heated it up, adding a couple tablespoons of olive oil and butter to the pan, tossing in a few smashed cloves of garlic and adding the patted dry fish which I had sprinkled with salt and pepper. I turned the fish only when it was nicely browned (about 7 minutes) and let it go another 7 minutes, deglazing the pan with 1/3 cup of a dry white wine, the juice of a lemon, a fistful of roughly chopped parsley and a tablespoon of capers. I removed the fish, let the sauce bubble away for another minute, and then poured that over the top. Perfection.
The next day, I had a bit less time when dinner hour rolled around. I needed to consolidate steps for my hungry crew and got my veggie sides going while I turned on my oven to 400 degrees and laid my cast iron grill over two stove top burners to heat. Once hot, I brushed the surface with olive oil and placed on the Branzino, patted dry and seasoned, along with two single portions of seasoned salmon. I let each side brown nicely enough to leave grill marks, then placed the entire cast iron grill into the 400 degree oven for final cooking of five or six minutes.
Cooking fish, like beef, lamb, poultry or pork, with the skin and bones intact produces more flavor and juiciness. Some people don’t like seeing a fish head or tail. I think it’s part of the natural beauty of the dish. It’s easy enough to remove the skin and bones of Branzino. (I enjoy the flavor and crispiness of the skin.) To remove the bones, start by plating the fish. It’s ok if the head and tail hang over the edges of the plate. Cut them off and tuck those pieces away for nibbling.
Next, I run my knife right down the center of the fish, feeling my way along the bone and gently pushing off the flesh to either side. The flesh on one side will be free of bones. On the other side, there will still be some bones to navigate.
The flesh separates easily from the bone.
Once I am done filleting that side of the fish, I simply pick up the center bone/spine and remove it. (There is still good nibbling on this, too.)
I didn’t take off the tail before removing the spine. It was filled with plenty of flesh to enjoy. And what’s left underneath the bone are two lovely filets.
I have had this fish stuffed with herbs and garlic and roasted as well. To me, it tastes best when it is simply grilled and then finished in the oven. So easy and flavorful. A spritz of fresh lemon juice brightens the delicate flavor of the fish.
ShopFreshSeafood.com delivers fresh seafood directly to consumers. The website offers a range of seafood from North American and Canadian waters in addition to the Branzino from Greece. Customizable packages are available. The business is located in the New Fulton Fish Market in the Bronx, NY and ships nationally.