Lately I’ve been asking you all on my social media what you want to see more of on my blog so that my content is uber useful for you, and today’s post is an answer to one of your requests! Cooking a whole fish can seem complicated and daunting because it offers such a dramatic presentation. So today I show you how to cook a whole fish, and just how easy it is! You can create a show-stopping meal that will wow your family and friends at the dinner table with just a few beautiful ingredients.
How to Cook a Whole Fish:
First up, you want to gather the most beautiful ingredients you can. The thing about fish is that it is so delicate in flavor and the meat will absorb aromatics that you add to it. So you don’t need to overwhelm it with strong ingredients or heavy sauces. Let the pure simple ingredients speak for themselves.
If you check out the other side of this fish you’ll see what a beautiful color it is. That is part of the presentation — color! So I chose a red snapper for this tutorial. You could also try a few trout, or sea bass, among others. Find a local fish monger that you love and see what she or he can offer you.
I’ve also got a medley of fresh herbs here! Rosemary and thyme and bay leaves are woody herbs that are perfect for whole fish because they permeate the meat in a subtle and beautiful way.
I also have fresh parsley, green olives, capers and olive oil for a lovely gentle sauce to drizzle over the finished dish when you serve.
And some grass fed butter that I’ll mix up with some garlic and put into the cavity of the fish. And lemon! Lemon and fish are a match made in heaven.
The size of fish you choose will depend on who you are cooking for, a fish of this size feeds two people very well. I would double it for four people.
Start by Prepping the Fish
Take a chef’s knife and scrape the scales off by going “against the grain”. This should be done near a sink or outside so you can clean up easily. It’s a lot of scales to remove.
Pro tip: You can ask your fish monger to do this for you and save yourself the time and mess at home. But it’s kinda fun to do yourself too.
You’ll also want to score the fish with a knife, usually 3 slits is enough. It will prevent the fish from curling up and will allow it to cook evenly.
Also get some heavy kitchen shears and remove all the fins on both sides.
Next you rinse your fish and stuff the cavity opening with fresh lemon slices.
Then stuff it with all those herbs. Yum!
Press it in there really well.
Don’t forget the glorious rosemary.
Give your parsley a really good chop and set it aside.
Then chop up your garlic along with some more of your herbs.
Mix it with some butter and salt and pepper.
Get a nice ball of butter going and press it inside the cavity and spread it around. This is where you get your hands dirty!
Lay the fish in a baking dish with some salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
Once you’ve popped that into the oven you mix up your parsley with your chopped capers and chopped olives and drizzle with olive oil so you have a nice mixture for serving. this is my favorite olive oil on the planet. I wrote about it in my first book Food Heroes and I highly recommend using it for sauces and as a finishing olive oil, but not too cook with. It’s too good not to taste it uncooked.
About 25 minutes later you have a beautiful fish to serve. It is light and subtle and herby and lemony and buttery and you can jazz it up a bit by serving the parsley-olive-caper mixture on the side for some tang.
Enjoy my friends! And let me know what you want to learn next by commenting on my social media or in the comments below. xox
“How to Cook a Whole Fish”
- 1 2.5 pound red snapper or other whole fish such as sea bream sea bass or branzino
- 2 tablespoons slightly softened butter
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus extra sprigs for stuffing
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves plus extra sprigs for stuffing
- Salt and pepper
- 1 lemon sliced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons capers chopped
- 1/4 cup green olives stoned and chopped
- 1 punch parsley leaves finely chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Start by Prepping the Fish. Take a chef’s knife and scrape the scales off by going “against the grain”. This should be done near a sink or outside so you can clean up easily. It’s a lot of scales to remove. Pro tip: You can ask your fish monger to do this for you and save yourself the time and mess at home. But it’s kinda fun to do yourself too.
- You’ll also want to score the fish with a knife, usually 3 slits is enough. It will prevent the fish from curling up and will allow it to cook evenly.
- Get some heavy kitchen shears and remove all the fins on both sides.
- Heat the oven to 400°F.
- Rinse your fish and stuff the cavity opening with fresh lemon slices.
- Mix the butter, minced garlic cloves, chopped rosemary and chopped thyme very well. Season well with salt and pepper.
- Spread the compound butter into the fish cavity.
- Drizzle the fish with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place the fish in a baking dish. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
- In the meantime, chop the parsley, capers, olives. Add enough olive oil to create a sauce. Serve with the warm fish.
Photos: Jamison Mosley and Dot Townsend