Welcome to What's Cooking, our version of a good old fashioned recipe exchange! This time, a recipe from one of our own! As always, we welcome you to share the recipes that enliven your kitchen—bonus points if you pair your dish with a Martha Stoumen wine, but we're sure we'll love it regardless.
WHOLE BRANZINO WITH LEMON AND THYME
TIME: 30 minutes
"This is one of my back pocket recipes/favorite thing to make when I want to impress someone (with minimal effort!). It's also the fastest way to transport yourself somewhere sexy and Mediterranean without leaving home. The most important part of it all? Enjoying with a glass (or two) of Vermentino, of course!
Use this recipe as a jumping-off point and see what you feel inspire to add—often I'll add Za'atar to the cavity, stuff with fennel if in season, or add broccolini to the baking sheet before it goes in the oven." —Alyssa, Digital Content Manager
• 2 whole branzino, descaled and gutted (about 1lb each)
• 2-3 lemons, depending on size
• 6 (ish) sprigs of thyme
• Your favorite olive oil (I like Graza for this because I can squeeze it in the cavity!)
• Salt + Pepper (to taste)
• Optional add ins! Za'atar, cherry tomatoes on the vine, shaved fennel, capers, whatever sounds salty and savory and delicious to you 🤸♀️
If using the oven, preheat to 425°. If using the grill, fire that baby up and let it warm for about 15-20 minutes, until it reaches temperature. If grilling, lightly oil your grill grates to avoid sticking, or use a fish basket. If using the oven, line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Pat the fish dry, then rub the exterior and inside cavity with olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste.
For the oven: Slice one lemon into thin rounds, and slice the other into wedges. You'll use the wedges to prop the fish upright so you can get a crispier skin (metal taco holders work well for this, too!). If grilling, slice second lemon in half to toss on the grill.
Once the cavity is oiled and seasoned, fill with lemon rounds and 2-3 sprigs of thyme each.
Transfer your stuffed fish to your baking sheet and use the lemon wedges to prop it upright on its belly. If grilling, transfer to your pre-heated grill. Bonus, but totally not necessary: wrap your branzino in a fig leaf for a beautiful presentation.
Bake or grill for 15-20 minutes, checking at 15 for doneness. Fish should be firm to the touch. If grilling, flip the fish halfway through your grilling time to cook evenly and blister the skin on both sides. Throw your halved lemon on the grill cut-side down with 5 or so minutes left to get a nice caramelization.
Remove fish from grill or oven, slide the thyme and lemon rounds out of the cavity, and serve with a squeeze of that deliciously caramelized lemon. I don't usually take the spine and bones out, but do you! If you're leaving them in and feeding this to friends, give them a gentle warning before they tuck in—fish bones can be so teeny!