How many times, and in how many ways, can I say it? Fish tastes better on the bone! As every cook from every serious food culture from every generation knows, the head—and the meat right behind it—is the best-tasting fish there is. You know the old saw about the closer to the bone, the sweeter the meat? That ain’t no lie. So please, free yourself up! Throw off your shackles and get right with the grand sweep of recorded culinary history. Start with this recipe …
CHOW Note: We love Tony’s recipes, but we also try to steer away from fish listed on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list. Go ahead and substitute striped bass or black bass in this recipe.
- Yield: 2 servings
- 2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into small pieces
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
- 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into thin strips
- 4 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 sprigs of thyme, leaves only
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth or light chicken stock
- 1 red snapper, about 2 pounds, scales removed, gills removed, fins clipped, guts removed, but otherwise intact
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 4 sprigs of flat parsley
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the potatoes in a small pot and cover them with water. Add salt to taste and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes. The potatoes should still be firm. Remove them from the water and reserve.
- On the stovetop, heat the olive oil in a roasting pan until it almost sizzles. Add the onions and peppers, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soft and browned. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the white wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to dislodge all that good stuff. Stir in the chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
- Season the fish with salt and freshly ground black pepper inside and out. After the broth and vegetables have been boiling for 5 minutes, place the fish in the pan, add the potatoes, and toss the whole thing into the oven. Cook for about 30 minutes, basting the fish with the pan juices 2 or 3 times during cooking.
- Change the oven’s setting to broil, remove the pan from the oven, and remove the fish from the roasting pan. Place the fish on a baking tray and put it under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the skin turns brown and crispy. Keep an eye on it: You do not want to scorch the thing. Transfer the fish to a serving platter. Add the lemon juice to the bell pepper and potato mixture, and season with salt and pepper. After a quick shot of heat and a stir or two, spoon the mixture over and around the fish. Garnish with the parsley and serve immediately.
Note: Do not neglect the cheeks, the meat at the collar, or the flaky bits between the bones. Feel free to eat with your hands.
Now think of all the ways you can improvise on this dish.
Beverage pairing: A brisk clean white from the País Vasco or Basque region of northern Spain would be an ideal accompaniment to this roasted fish. Txakoli or Txakolina (pronounced cha-ko-leena), a floral and crisp and slightly sparkling white from Spanish Basque country, would be an ideal match. Try the 2004 Etxaniz Txakoli Txomin.