Not everyone is prepared to find a whole fish on their dinner plate. We found our underwater friend's underbite amusing; but teeth and eyeballs cause some squirm. Besides, many of us never learned what to do when presented with a whole fish for dinner. How does one go about removing the head, skin and spine in order to get to the the tender white fillet inside?
In many cultures, though, eating whole fish is commonplace. Whole fish is more economical than fish fillets, and also much better tasting. Meats and fish cooked in their bones and skin are always moister and more savory than slices of meat or fish separated from the carcass.
In Italy, roasted fish with rosemary potatoes are a common Sunday afternoon meal. Stefano's mom, Maria, visits the fish market on Saturday and picks out whichever fish looks the best—sometimes spigola (seabass), other times trota (trout). Freshness is important—signs of a not-so-fresh fish include a fishy smell, cloudy eyes, and a dry tail. In Italy, they will typically gut and scale your fish right there for you. In the States, they will often come scaled and gutted.
On a side note, an Italian fish market is a spectacular sight—be sure to visit one when you are there. —DueSpaghetti
Test Kitchen Notes
WHO: DueSpaghetti is Cara and Stefano, two Italian expats living in Minneapolis.
WHAT: Both a technique and a recipe for making a gorgeous roast fish.
HOW: Salt, pepper, and oil your fish and potatoes. Place a sprig of rosemary inside the fish's cavity. Bake. (That's it.)
WHY WE LOVE IT: The simplicity of this recipe is both a joy and a relief -- with just a few ingredients, and in just a half hour, you have a full, flavorful, and healthy meal. We love both the recipe itself and the concept that comes with it: season and oil a fish, bake it, and serve. The rest is up to you. —The Editors
as many as you wish
whole fish per person (trout and seabass work well)
potato per person, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
clove of finely diced garlic per fish, plus extra for the potatoes
sprig of fresh rosemary, plus extra for the potatoes
Wash the exterior and the cavity of the fish under cold water.
Coat the bottom of a baking pan or roasting pan with olive oil.
Add the diced potatoes. Salt and pepper the potatoes liberally, and add a handful of finely mined garlic and rosemary stems.
Rub olive oil on the skin and in the cavity of each fish, and lay them in the baking pan on top of the potatoes. Salt the cavity of each fish liberally and add the minced garlic. If you wish, you may also add some crushed red pepper. Place a sprig of rosemary inside each fish.
Bake at 375° F for approximately 30 minutes. Once or twice during cooking, use a flat spatula to lift and turn the potatoes, being careful to not prod or poke the fish. Do not turn the fish. Cooking time will vary according to the size of the fish; it is done when the skin loosens and the meat is tender but firm to the touch.
Your potatoes may require additional cooking time. If this is the case, remove the fish and return the baking tray to the oven until the potatoes are golden brown.