Whole Baked Fish with Island Sauce
If you're lucky enough to spend time on a french island, you learn to slow down and enjoy real food, prepared really simply. So there's more time to sit in the sunshine and savour that glass of rosé thrust into your hand prior to feasting.
Friends who live on the islands of Noirmoutier, Groix and Île de Ré taught me how simple and delicious it is to enjoy whole fish (not filets), caught locally on the same day you eat it, and so fresh it still smells like the ocean you just swam in that morning.
I had always assumed it was best left to restaurant chefs to cook a whole fish, but here's why it's such a good idea to try it yourself :
- No mess, no fuss.
- Super fast and easy peasy, in the oven or BBQ.
- Better flavour and more succulent, because the bones and skin add intensity.
And while we're on the subject, here's how to introduce a little of that french island vibe into your dégustations :
- Do as little to the food as possible.
- Simple not complicated is key.
- Buy the freshest and highest quality you can.
- Slow down - enjoy the preparation and degustation equally.
- Add salad and small quantities of good quality bread, cheese, "bio" (organic) wine ... and languorous conversation.
- Eat outdoors whenever possible.
WHOLE BAKED FISH WITH ISLAND SAUCE
- Buy your fish (I like dorade) scaled, gutted and gills removed by the fishmonger, leaving head and tail intact.
- Rinse and pat dry with paper towel, then place on parchment paper for BBQ, or in a roasting pan for oven.
- Slice skin a couple of times but not quite through to the bone.
- Rub inside and out with olive oil, stuff with fresh herbs, thinly sliced fennel, eschalots or lemon, olives or whatever you like.
- Scatter with baby tomatoes and a splash of dry white wine, if the mood takes you.
- Bake uncovered at 175-200 deg Celsius in the oven, or close up and seal the parchment paper with toothpicks, then barbecue.
- It's ready when the flesh flakes easily with a fork or the fins come off easily.
- Bring to the table whole, watch for bones and devour with Island Sauce (below) and a glass of organic white wine.
Combine to your liking and serve alongside fish :
- Good quality olive oil + cider or red wine vinegar (ratio 3:1)
- Capers, chopped
- Fresh dill, chopped
- Baby tomatoes, chopped
- Salt and pepper