Saturday, May 21, 2011

Weekly Fish #5: Branzino

The objective this week was to prepare a whole fish. We stopped by Coastal Seafoods, and after briefly debating whether to get a whole trout or a whole branzino (and with the help of our very knowledgeable monger), we decided to go with the road less traveled.

Branzino may or may not be the correct name for this fish. It is known variously as branzini, bronzini, or branzino, and more generally as European seabass.

Mr Bronzino is grumpy about the fate that awaits him.

The fish were rubbed with salt and pepper inside and out, stuffed with lemon slices, thyme sprigs and bay leaf, and covered with a bit of olive oil. My intention was to grill the fish whole -- I was really excited to get those diagonal grill marks across the body of the bronzino. Sadly, the gas tank ran out as I placed these marvels on the grill. Plan B involved first browning the sides of the fish in a hot pan and then roasting them.

While the fish roasted, we cracked open a Fitger's Brewhouse Imperial German Schwartzweizen, which we picked up on our trip to the north shore this winter. This beer was part of a limited edition series named after each of the Great Lakes, this variety being Lake Superior. Our bottle was numbered 43 (of 204); I pride myself on having a seventh sense when it comes to detecting prime numbers, and knew instantly I was in for a treat.

It was very dark in color, and had a toasty sweetness to it, almost a smoke and toffee aspect. Not necessarily the best pairing to a white fish, but we were itching to open it, and Weekly Fish provided just the excuse we needed.

Because it's farm share season, we had much on hand to serve with the would-be-grilled-but-instead-roasted branzino. Jess whipped up a tasty salad of spinach and other greens, plus ramps and chives, which provided a very Springy dimension to the dinner. I diced and roasted some parsnips, and topped with a vinegar and mustard dressing. Parsnip, in my opinion, is best when caramelized a bit, and the mustard offset the inherent sweetness nicely.

Branzino was delightfully fishy, just as you would find a red snapper to be, which was a pleasant taste and olfactory sensation in such a stripped-down preparation. Lesser fish would need a sauce to make it as interesting.

Jess and I agreed that the game to be played with the whole fish concept is that of bone dodging. We also agreed that the branzino was about as boney as we would consider to be enjoyable. Any more (or smaller) bones, and it would have taken away from the total experience.

Overall, I'm glad to have completed the whole fish objective, and can highly recommend the branzino as a great variety for this purpose.

At the end of every weekly fish I've had a pretty good idea what I want to tackle next. But this time I'm not really sure. Will it be our first Weekly Bivalve? Or perhaps an even smaller whole fish dish (does anyone know where to find whole anchovies or sardines)? Tune in next week to find out!

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1 comment:

Jaime said...

As always, this looks delicious. I've never had the courage to do a "whole fish," so I'm very impressed!


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