opinions on food and travels

Roasted Branzino with Lemon, Oregano, and Capers


I don’t have a bucket list in general, let alone a food bucket list.  But I do have a mind that sees something interesting and once captured, it stays and stays.  This particular oddity of mine isn’t limited to food, but because food is what I think of most, I can guarantee my mind is full of ideas just waiting for an opportunity to try.

Perhaps I do have a food bucket list.

Let’s take branzino for example.  I know.  I’d never heard of it before, but probably read about it in Saveur or something.  I love those experiences.  I read about something new and my curiosity is piqued.  Sometimes, that’s enough I think, realizing that in one lifetime, I can’t possibly fit every whim or fancy into reality.  I tell myself some things are best left for whimsy.

But I’m caught off guard occasionally.  Frequently would be more accurate, but who’s keeping score?  This past winter as I shopped for holiday menu ingredients, I spotted fresh, whole Branzino resting on a bed of ice behind the glass case at the market and without hesitation asked the clerk for two.  As I was waiting, a couple eased forward, looking at the Branzino as well, and I heard them talking about it in hushed tones, sharing memories of how it had been prepared and how much they enjoyed it.  When the clerk asked them about their selection, they responded with a request to have it “dressed.”

I, on the other hand, just wanted the whole fish — or two.  This means I left the store with the entire fish — guts and all and not a clue what to do with it.

For what it’s worth, I think the very best things in life come from experiences that haven’t been planned.  That’s a good lesson for me — someone who plans to the nth degree.  Obsessively.

Have you ever gutted a fish?  I hadn’t until this particular time, and I’ll spare you the details of my experience simply because I chose not to put my fishy hands on my camera, but am happy to say I pulled it off famously.

This is an extremely simple and classic preparation of Branzino which is also known as European Seabass.  If you’re someone who enjoys a light, tender piece of fish and likes to experiment a bit with ingredients, then this recipe is for you.

Roasted Branzino with Lemon, Oregano, and Capers

Branzino ingredients

2 whole Branzino, dressed (gutted and scaled)

1 lemon, sliced

6 sprigs of fresh oregano

salt & pepper

Caper Lemon Butter  Ingredients

1/8 c. lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1/8 c. extra virgin olive oil

2 T. butter

1 T capers

salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Prepare the Branzino by seasoning the inside with salt and pepper, then drizzle lightly with olive oil.
  3. Insert 3 slices of lemon and a few sprigs of fresh oregano into each fish.
  4. Heat a bit of olive oil in a skillet and fry the Branzino on each side about 3 minutes.
  5. Remove the fish to a parchment lined baking sheet and place in the oven for about 10 minutes.
  6. To make the caper lemon butter, melt the butter in a skillet.  Add the olive oil and lemon and stir until warm.  Add the capers and season lightly.  Remove from heat.
  7. Plate the Branzino and pour over the caper lemon butter to serve.



Notes:

  • Branzino is often referred to as European Seabass (spigole in Italian) and is most likely a farmed fish currently.  It’s native to regions near the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic.
  • If you’ve never gutted a fish, trust me.  You, too can do this.  Follow these directions and it’s pretty simple. Sadly, I did not find this video until after I gutted my Branzino.  I’ll chalk it up to the rush of the holiday season.  I used a more generic set of directions — still good, but went through the belly instead.  I’ll use this version next time because I like the idea of having the larger space to stuff.
  • Because I saw these Branzino while I was shopping for holiday dinner menu items, I knew I’d probably have to freeze them after cleaning because fish wasn’t on the holiday menu.  I did just that, making sure they were double wrapped well in plastic and foil.  They were snug in my freezer for nearly 5 months before I thawed them in the fridge, then made this recipe.
  • Before I froze the Branzino, I dried them by blotting well with a clean cloth.  I then wrapped them closely in plastic wrap, then in a layer of foil.  The important thing to remember when freezing anything is to make sure there is no air in the package.
  • I rinsed the thawed fish and blotted it dry before moving on with the recipe.
  • This recipe is a blend of far too many recipes for me to list — primarily working for the Mediterranean flavors of capers, lemons, and olive oil.
  • Ladolemono is a Greek “salad dressing” with equal an ration of lemon to olive oil and that’s what I used for this as a dressing after the fish was cooked.  A bit of butter is nice but not necessary and if you’re like me, then include the brine of the capers when you measure out the tablespoon.  We’re always told to rinse them, but I happen to like the briny taste so never rinse them.
  • I can’t say enough to be careful when frying the Branzino.  As much as I had olive oil in the pan, the fish stuck and so there went the lovely crispy skin which it is so noted for.  We picked it out of the pan and it was delicious!
  • Perhaps you might plan to fry the fish in a pan that will then fit in your oven and when you serve it, the skin will still be intact.
  • I served our Branzino with a saute of chard in rendered pancetta with garlic and kalamata olives.  You don’t need a recipe, just go with it. It was fabulous and clearly the hubster loved it.

Resources for Roasted Branzino from around the web: