Big City Little Kitchen is fortunate enough to live near the ultimate gourmet market known as Citarella. They have three locations in Manhattan, a wide variety of fresh seafood products, and everything is fairly priced. We paid about $13.00/fish.
Jess is quite the picky fish-eater, and a branzino is the perfect, flaky, white fish with a mild flavor. It’s almost a cross between a sea bass with a striper.
HINT: When buying fish, there are a few things to look for. Make sure the eyes are clear and still rounded. If they’re sunken in, move on to another fish. The gills should be bright red, and it should not have a deep fishy smell. If you’re unsure, ask the fisherman to help you out. He knows. While you’re at it, ask him to clean it and remove the inedible parts. If you’re nervous about cooking a whole fish, you can ask him to filet it as well.
Due to the mild flavor, we suggest pairing it with something light and fresh. We whipped up a simple Mediterranean salad with iceberg lettuce, red onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, chick peas, feta cheese, and a light vinaigrette.
What You’ll Need (2 servings):
- 1 Branzino per person (it’s a small fish)
- 1 Lemon
- 5 Garlic Cloves
- Basil (as desired)
- Salt/Pepper to tast
- Olive Oil as needed
Preheat the oven to 400-425 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil and drizzle a little oil in order to reduce the fish from sticking. Rinse the fish in cold water, pat dry with a paper towel, and place on oiled sheet pan.
Roughly chop the garlic and basil, and slice up a lemon. Place half of each in a small bowl for later. Now we’re ready to generously salt and peper the branzino inside and out. When you have completely seasoned the branzino, place some of the garlic, lemon, and basil inside the belly of the fish. Pop them in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes. Keep an eye on the fish and adjust the cook time when necessary. For this particular meal, our total cook time was 30 minutes.
While waiting for the fish to cook, start to prepare the garlic, basil, and lemon olive oil (this is why you set some aside in the beginning.) Just before you’re about to take the fish out of the oven, heat
up the olive oil. Keep in mind you need enough to cover each fish. Once the oil is hot and you are sure the fish is cooked, add the garlic and saute until golden brown. When the garlic is golden brown, remove from the heat and add the reaming basil and lemon juice. Drizzle the garlic, basil and lemon olive oil over the branzino and you are almost ready to enjoy this beautiful fish.
Now the fun begins, and I’m not talking about the eating. It’s time to behead, skin, and bone this lovely little creature. Don’t worry its very simple.
HINT: Make your man do this part, as it’s a little grotesque. Ladies: just sit back, pour yourself a glass of wine, and await your service.
First, present the fish to your dining partner, and then say something like “I’ma gonna fillet it fo’ yous in da kitchen.” At worst, you’ll get a laugh out of it.
Ok. Now in all seriousness, its time to make the branzino dinner. You will need a fork, a spoon, and a knife. First, place the spoon under the head of the fish and the fork where the neck would be. Push the fork down, break the neck of the fish, and use the spoon to pull the head off the foil and towards the tail of the fish. In doing this you will remove the head and the top layer of skin.
Second, take the spoon and and carve out some of the belly area. There are a decent amount of bones in this section of the fish and you will not be happy if you get one in your mouth.
Now its time to separate the fillets of the fish. Find the blood line: literally in the center of the first fillet, and use the spoon to pull the fillet towards the belly. Be gentle while plating the branzino, as it can fall apart easily. Repeat the process for the rest of the top fillet. Now you can see the entire bone structure or the spine of the fish. Take the spoon and the fork (or your fingers) and remove the spine from the reaming fillet. Place the remaining fillets on the plate and use the spoon to gather all the lovely juices/olive oil.
Dinner is served. Enjoy the culinary delight that is the branzino.