The last of this week's Cook the Book recipes is for a Slow-Roasted Whole Fish with Onion and Fennel Stuffing. It's a bit longer than the previous recipes, which is why it's coming to you on Friday, so you can attempt it over the weekend.
Like all the Cook the Book recipes this week, this one comes from Jasper White's Summer Shack Cookbook.
Slow-Roasted Whole Fish with Onion and Fennel Stuffing
- Yield:Serves 4
- 1 6- to 8-pound striped bass or other whole fish, cleaned and scaled
- 6 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil, plus a little for drizzling
- 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
- 2 small onions (8 ounces), thinly sliced
- 1 fennel bulb (8 to 10 ounces), branches and tough outer sections removed, fronds reserved for garnish
- 1 tablespoon minced thyme (leaves from 4 to 6 sprigs)
- 6 ounces Portuguese chouriço, linguiça, or other spicy dry sausage, casings removed and cut into 1/3-inch dice (optional)
- 2 tablespoons butter if not using sausage
- 2 tablespoons minced chives or scallions
- 1/2 bunch Italian parsley, leaves removed and chopped (1/2 cup)
- 2 ounces hard dry crackers, such as common crackers, oyster crackers, or pilot crackers, coarsely crumbled or chopped (about 3/4 cup)
- Kosher or fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges
Run the back of a knife over the fish to make sure all the scales have been removed. Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut off all the fins. Rinse the fish inside and out to remove any blood. Dry it on paper towels, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, onions, fennel, and thyme and saute, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the diced sausage, if using, and saute until the sausage is fragrant, about 1 minute more. Or, if you are not using sausage, add the butter and stir to melt. (The butter is comparable to the amount of fat the sausage would add and is essential to the recipe.) Remove the skillet from the heat and cool sllghtly.
Add the chives, parsley, and cracker crumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper and mix to combine. The stuffing will be fairly loose. Set aside.
Adjust an oven rack to the lower position and preheat the oven to 325°F. Rub the bottom of a large roasting pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
Cover the roasting pan loosely with aluminum foil, place in the oven, and roast for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and baste the fish with its pan drippings. Continue to roast uncovered for 15 minutes, then baste again with pan drippings. Roast 15 minutes more, then remove from the oven and turn up the heat to 450°F
Transfer the fish to the warm platter with two spatulas. Garnish the platter with lemon wedges and the reserved fennel fronds, and present the fish whole. To serve, slide a large serving spoon between the backbone and the top fillet to loosen the fillet. Serve each portion with a spoonful of the stuffing and a piece of the crisp skin. After the top fillet has been served, pull the frame of bones away to expose the bottom fillet. Warn your guests to be on the lookout for pin bones-it is impossible to serve a whole fish without getting a few.