Monday, December 14, 2009

Pesce al Forno

As Christmas approaches I'm reminded that Italy celebrates la Vigilia (or Christmas Eve) with fish.  While the "feast of the seven fishes" has become almost fabled, the reality is that most households do eat fish, but not necessarily seven plates of it.  Our own experience of the past three Christmases spent with Roman friends brought four to five fish dishes to the table each year.  There is usually one or two seafood-based antipasti, followed by a pasta with salmon or shrimp, and then the obligatory pesce fritto, fried small white fish that everyone devours while complaining about the grease and fat, being careful to leave no speck of breading on the plate.  The highlight is always the pesce al forno, baked or roasted fish that is meaty with a delicate flavor.

You can use any whole fish - bass, redfish, snapper, bream, or perch.  Obviously the herbs can be varied to taste, substituting fresh dill or the rosemary or thyme.  Roasting whole fish on the bone gives it a wonderful flavor and moistness you don't get with fillets.

Whole fish - cleaned and gutted
1 lemon, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
fresh herbs - rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley, or dill
olive oil
white wine

Rinse and dry the fish, then rub it with olive oil.  Sprinkle it generously all over with salt.

In a roasting pan or baking pan lay some sprigs of rosemary or thyme, then lay thin slices of lemon on top.  Put the fish on the "bedding".  Put slices of lemon, sprigs of thyme and slices of garlic inside the cavity of the fish.  Lay more lemon slices on top.  Drizzle with a little bit of white wine (about 1/3 cup).

Bake at 400 F. for about 1/2 hour.  Fish is done when the eyes turn white and the flesh flakes with a fork.  A good rule of thumb for cooking fish is ten minutes per inch of thickness.

Related Link:

How to Eat Fish on the Bone

Italyville's Feast of the Seven Fishes Roundup


Chef Chuck said...

Sounds delish, So light and delightful!

Valerie said...

Hi Chuck - Yes, very light but full of flavor. Buon Natale!

janie said...

What fish do you think you'll do?