Christmas Eve in my family is a huge event, a sit-down dinner for more than 100 people. Since we’re Italian, multiple types of fish are served, which is pretty fantastic for me since that’s my animal protein of choice. But no one makes branzino, which is actually my favorite fish, because it’s completely impractical for a crowd. But I do cook it for my family or if we have a few friends over because it is so simple to make, very clean and absolutely delicious. It is not just for restaurants!
I had already posted a recipe for whole roasted branzino a while back, but many of my students suggested a video, especially for how to debone it after it was cooked. Here you go!
- 6 1 to 1 ¼ pound whole sea bass or striped bass, scaled and gutted (you ask the fishmonger to do this for you)
- Sea salt
- 2 lemons, sliced into thin rounds
- 6 sprigs of parsley or some fennel fronds + extra fennel fronds for the pan
- Unrefined, cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Rinse each piece of fish and pat dry with paper towels. Arrange some fennel fronds on a parchment-lined baking sheet and place the fish on top of the fronds. You don’t have to use fennel fronds, but I like the flavor they infuse.
- Season the cavity of the fish with a healthy pinch of sea salt. Fill each cavity with some parsley or fennel fronds and 2 slices of lemon.
- Drizzle the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
- Roast the fish for 20 minutes. Take a peek under the skin along the backbone. The flesh should be opaque and not translucent.
- To filet the fish, use two large spoons or a large spoon and a fork and start by removing the head and the tail. They should break off easily from the rest of the body. Remove lemon and parsley from the cavity. Scrape all the flabby pieces off the bottom of the fish. Turn the fish around and run the spoon along the backbone of the fish to remove the small bones at the top. Wedge your spoon into the middle of the fish to open up the fish so you can remove the spine. Lift the spine from the flesh. Take the meat off the skin, if desired, and transfer to a warmed plate. Sometimes I run my finger across the flesh to make sure I got all the bones. Don’t worry if you missed a few, just warn your dinner companions ahead of time that you’re not an expert and that there may be a pin bone or two.
- Sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with olive oil and a little more lemon if you wish.