Even when a recipe is well written, it can be tough to truly gauge how long a dish will take to make from start to finish. Estimates for cooking time are often unable to take into account subtle factors that come into play when making dinner, such as how long my workday was and how much whiskey I drank at the happy hour just before.
This isn’t one of those recipes. Even at tipsy half-speed, you should be able to cook this whole roasted porgy with tomatoes and shishito peppers in under thirty minutes. The secret is to keep everything whole and blast it with high heat under the broiler until blistered and charred. By skipping all the fussy knife work, I can get to the good eating sooner—just what I need on a busy weeknight.
When you need a quick-cooking meal fish is one of your best options—here I’ve chosen whole porgy, which is affordable and plentiful; if you can't find porgy, dorade is a very similar option. And while it’s a bony fish, the flesh is sweet, delicate, and absolutely worth the effort. Especially with a recipe that requires such minimal prep, I don’t mind taking extra time at the dinner table.
To start, I line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and lemon slices. The lemon not only infuses the fish and vegetables with its bright, aromatic flavor, but it also prevents the fish from sticking to the pan, allowing me to enjoy every bit of sticky skin.
Next, I prepare the whole fish by rubbing it inside and out with extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper. The porgies I’ve picked out here are on the smaller end—at just under a pound, each fish is a perfect portion for one person. The average porgy ranges from one to three pounds, but this recipe can quickly scale up to work with larger fish by merely adjusting the cooking time. One larger two-pound fish may need an extra minute or two compared to two smaller one-pound fish.
I then stuff the cavity of the fish with whatever herbs I have around. I prefer soft herbs with tender stems such as cilantro, parsley, and chives, which steam inside the cavity, perfuming the flesh while also growing tender and succulent. Woody herbs such as thyme, rosemary, and sage can can also offer a great aroma to the fish, but won’t break down and become edible the way softer herbs do.
I toss the vegetables in a large bowl with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper before arranging them alongside the fish. Peppers and tomatoes are ideal in a dish like this because they can be delicious at any stage of doneness, from crisp and fresh to profoundly charred and caramelized. This allows me to focus on accurately cooking the fish and not fuss over whether or not the tomatoes and peppers are evenly browned.
Small fish like these need just ten minutes under the broiler. Because porgy is a flatter fish, they cook evenly without much effort on my part. I just flip the fish once with a slotted fish spatula and toss the vegetables around halfway through cooking. Once the fins pull off the body easily, you can feel confident that it has cooked through.
While the fish is under the broiler, I make a straightforward garlic-and-herb oil to serve alongside. I start by thinly slicing garlic before gently toasting it in oil until barely golden brown. Garlic can taste burnt long before it browns, so it’s always best to pull it off the heat earlier rather than later. Once off the heat, I stir in a touch of smoked paprika and dried oregano. You can choose how to use it: for dipping, dunking, and/or drizzling onto the fish.
To be honest, I tend to eat meals like this right off the sheet tray, without any cutlery, until I’ve plucked off every last morsel of flaky fish. Who's got time for plates?