Cooking a whole fish can be somewhat intimidating. It has beady eyes, scaly skin and tons of bones – not exactly a dream specimen to work with. But with the help of your local fishmonger (and this recipe!), cooking a whole fish can be a snap.
And this isn’t even really a recipe. Just advice/guidelines to help you through the simple process of cooking a whole fish. I’d love to hear other people’s tips on how they cook whole fish – especially if you use a grill as I’m ill-prepared in that department.
How To Cook a Whole Fish
Step 1: Don’t be afraid. I promise, it’s a snap.
Step 2: Pick out your dinner. When buying a whole fish, first look at the eyes. A fresh fish has bright, clear, and protruding eyes rather than dull, hazy, sunken ones. The skin should be moist and shiny, the gills red or pink, and the flesh firm and elastic. The odor is also one of the best signs of freshness. A fresh fish has a fresh, slightly oceanlike, mild odor. If it smells fishy and stinky, stay away!
Step 3: Ask your new best friend, the fishmonger to scale it, gut it, remove the gills, and remove the fins. Then ask your fishmonger to butterfly it for you. This creates an opening down the center for you to stuff it will all your favorite acoutrements.
Step 4: Shop for lemons/olives/fennel/tomatoes/fresh herbs – whatever your heart desires. These items will go in and around the fish to create your whole fish feast.
Step 5: Put your fish in a roasting pan or a shallow glass pan (or you can be ghetto/lazy like me and put it in a shallow pan with foil so you don’t have to clean as much). Stuff and surround your fish with your items of choice. Use twine to wrap it up if you want to keep everything together, and then throw it in the oven. Cooking time depends on the thickness of your fish, but I roasted my whole snapper for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.
Step 6: Time to impress your guests. Serve the fish on a platter. Run a knife between the flesh and the bones and lift off the fillet. Turn the fish over and repeat. Repeat with the other fish. Pass lemon wedges. Enjoy!
For this particular recipe, I used a 3lb snapper that I stuffed with thyme, rosemary, basil, lemon slices, salt & pepper and olive oil. I surrounded the fish with yellow, red & orange tomatoes, thyme, garlic and olive oil that I ended up serving over the fish filets. Perfection!