A single mother with a flair for the dramatic, my mom specializes in quick and easy dishes with great presentation. The whole stuffed fish is easy to make and looks great on a platter. You can do it with small fish for individual portions, medium fish for smaller gatherings, or large ones for parties. For the holidays, my mom stuffs a large fish with oyster dressing. It travels well and it wows a crowd. Leftovers are a welcome treat. —Alexis Anthony
unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
day old, whole grain bread, cut in to 1" cubes
medium white onion, diced
cloves garlic, finely chopped
oysters, freshly shucked, drained, and coarsely chopped (Note: reserve the oyster liquor)
fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper, plus more to taste
mango or pink snapper, but any large fish will do. The fish should be fresh and whole. Have it gutted and scaled at the market.
Melt 8 tablespoons butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 4 minutes. Then add chopped garlic and sauté 2 more minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Let cool to room temp.
In a large bowl, stir together the onion and garlic mixture with the oysters, lemon, parsley, and salt and pepper. Add the dried-out bread, and toss until completely coated. Add the reserved oyster liquor until the mixture is saturated, but not soaking. (If you run out of oyster liquor, you can add chicken broth or water as needed.) At this point, taste your mixture and add lemon, salt and or pepper as needed.
Line a rimmed baking sheet or casserole pan large enough to accommodate your fish with parchment. This will prevent the fish from sticking and will make it easier to slide it on to a platter. Coat the inside and outside of the fish with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Stuff the fish with an even thickness of stuffing (2 to 3" thick). Cover the top of the stuffing with the lemon slices.
Bake at 350°F until the fish is flaky. Start checking it after about 20 minutes. If it’s not ready, keep checking every 5 minutes until it's done. Let it sit for about 20 minutes before serving.
If you end up with extra stuffing, lucky you! You'll make it into dressing. Choose a baking dish size that will accommodate your extra stuffing packed in at around 2” thick.
Butter the pan, fill with stuffing, and bake at 350°F until the top is deep golden brown.