Yesterday a big group of us headed down to Pike Place Market for the Seattle Cheese Festival, where we watched people race cheese wheels, said hi to Rachel, and ate ourselves stupid for the second day in a row. (The previous day had involved Jade Garden, Red Mill, Salumi, and Uwajimaya.) The biggest cheese discovery was undoubtedly the truffled goat cheese Cypress Grove will be releasing this summer. Oohhhhhh.
Nevertheless, we pursued dinner. The fish store I like at Pike Place, which I call The One in the Middle because I never remember its name, had happy-looking (and relatively inexpensive) branzino, so I scooped some up and asked the guys there to clean and scale them for me.
Cooking such lively-looking creatures certainly captured the attention of our animals, who took turns poking their noses into the photos I was taking. It was obvious to me that the dog saw the cat becoming interested, and dared him to lick a fish’s tail, which he did, like the good teenaged boy he is. They then held a tableside conference to determine outcome of the tail-licking experience and thus the desirability of our dinner:
Eventually it was determined that while the fish certainly smelled good, the presence of such scary real-world features as fins and tails would make each fish too heavy to carry off the platter with much success. So they both waited patiently for scraps.
Here‘s a good video on how to filet fish, if you’ve never done it. It’s for raw fish, but it will show you where to begin cutting a cooked filet off – if the fish is cooked, the flesh will lift off the bones, so none of the knife-scraping-head-to-tail business shown in the video will be necessary.
Rosemary-Grilled Whole Branzino
Recipe 140 of 365
Branzini are a small species of sea bass native to the Mediterranean (the French call them loup de mer), but it’s often possible to find them fresh from the Pacific in fish markets on the west coast. They have a nice, mild flavor, like a cross between regular sea bass and trout, which would also make a great substitute if you can’t find branzini. Here’s a simple way to grill them over hot coals (you can prep the fish while the grill heats up), stuffed with rosemary and sliced lemons and grilled over additional rosemary sprigs for a little touch of smoky, piney flavor.
To serve the fish, cut the filet away from the backbone with a small, sharp knife, or (I found this easiest with this particular fish) simply reach inside the fish and push your fingers between the rib bones of one side of the fish, effectively pushing the filet off the bones from the inside.
TIME: 15 minutes, plus 10 minutes grilling time
MAKES: 6 servings
3 fresh branzini, roughly 1 pound and 15 inches long each (or large trout), gutted, scaled, rinsed, and patted dry (heads left on)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for greasing grill
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large lemon, very thinly sliced, plus 1 lemon for serving, cut into wedges
9 (6” – 8”) sprigs fresh rosemary, plus another big handful for the coals, if using charcoal
Preheat a charcoal or gas grill over medium heat.
Brush each fish inside and out with the olive oil, and season inside and out with the salt and pepper. Rub the 9 rosemary sprigs together in your hands to bruise the needles and release their oils a bit, and stuff three into the cavity of each fish, stabbing the sharp ends of the rosemary directly into the inside flesh of the fish, if necessary, to anchor the rosemary inside the fish. Stuff a few of the lemon slices into each fish, and set the fish aside.
Clean the grill grate, and grease it with an oil-soaked paper towel. Just before cooking, if using charcoal, toss the remaining rosemary onto the coals. Holding the fish together at the thickest part, transfer the fish to the grill, and cook directly over the coals for about 5 to 7 minutes on each side, or until the skin is crispy and the meat just begins to flake. (Note: the less you mess with the fish, the more likely it is to come off the grill intact.) Serve hot, with additional lemon wedges.