whole grilled branzino

 

branzino is an incredibly light white fish commonly cooked whole. here we've taken inspiration from gabrielle hamilton again - from her grilled branzino done with toasted fennel oil. when I ate at prune, I devoured the sight of the prepared branzino - the gutted cavity stuffed full with lemons and fennel fronds. they grill in the open kitchen, the scent of those perfect fish wafting out into the main dining area.

buying fresh fish can be an overwhelming experience. what should you look for? is it too fishy? is this slime or normal? there are eight simple checks you'll go for when purchasing seafood. first, is it slimy to the touch? not just wet or that healthy slipperiness - does your hand actually come away with slime? if so, toss it. second, are the eyes bright and glassy? third, do you see bright red to pink gills (pink to red is good, dark, dark red to gray? not so much)? fourth, does it smell fishy like the sea or fishy like you'll never get it back out of your clothes, holy wow that's a dead fish? (fishy like the sea is good) fifth, how does that body cavity look? is it darkened, torn up, or have much additional damage to it? sixth, does it feel firm, like when you press your arm -does the meat bounce back (if so, good!)? seventh, is it cold? has it been kept under forty degrees Fahrenheit (never buy warm fish)? eighth, are the scales flaking off? (bad)


I did this for a recent dinner party. a summer celebration. hello sunshine, my old friend. strings of lights strewn up across the glass table and through boughs of pine and oaks. the table was laden heavy with pinot grigio and sauternes wine. doing a dinner party for six or more proves to me how far we’ve come, how much we’ve learned, since starting culinary school last october. mainly, I’ve learnt time management. choreographing a large meal is similar to a dance - plan your movements and your steps.

2 branzino, cleaned and gutted. left whole.
1/4 cup fennel seeds, toasted
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup canola oil
4 fennel fronds
4 slices lemon
2 sprigs rosemary

inspect the fish when you buy it for freshness. you're going to use the eight quality checks listed above.

to toast the fennel seeds, heat on a sheet pan (cookie sheet) in the oven at 350 for 5 minutes 

turn on your grill to high. meanwhile, heat the olive oil, canola, and toasted fennel seeds in a small saucepan over high for 1-2 minutes or until hot. let sit.

stuff the cavity with fronds, lemon, and rosemary. brush outside liberally with fennel oil. lay on grill and cook 4 minutes per side.