This recipe for whole roasted fish with green sauce makes good use of garden herbs, and the accompanying smashed potatoes make for a hearty meal. Whether you fish for fresh catch yourself or visit a local seafood market, preparing a whole roasted fish is both more economical and more foolproof than fiddling with pricey and delicate fish fillets. Chef Jessica Tantalo likes whole roasted fish with fennel and radicchio, but if those aren’t available feel free to skip and serve with a salad of bitter greens. Don’t skip the potatoes, though–you’ll want a starchy vehicle for the flavorful green sauce.
Abundant in Florida waters, sheepshead has firm flesh and a sweet flavor from its shellfish-centric diet, aided by a set of disconcertingly human teeth. (You could also substitute Florida fish such as black drum or redfish.) Chef Jes makes the sauce while the potatoes are boiling, then preps the fish while the potatoes cool in order to put veggies and fish in the oven at the same time.
Whole Roasted Fish with Green Sauce and Smashed Potatoes
by Chef Jessica Tantalo
1 pound baby gold potatoes, rinsed
6 mini fennel bulbs or 1-2 large fennel bulb, rinsed and quartered with root intact (white part only)
Prep the veggies: place potatoes in a pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water, then season with a generous pinch of salt and boil uncovered on medium high heat. The goal is to have the potatoes fork tender, but still firm. Check after 12-15 minutes depending on their size—the goal is for them to be fork tender but still firm. When the potatoes are almost ready, drop the fennel into the water to blanch for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside until they are cool enough to handle.
1 bunch scallions, trimmed and sliced lengthwise if thicker than a pencil
1 small clove garlic
¼ cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
½ cup roughly chopped parsley leaves (reserve stems)
¼ cup roughly chopped mint leaves
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
Make the sauce: preheat broiler to high and line a baking sheet with foil and parchment. Using a pastry brush, sparingly coat the scallions with olive oil and season with salt. Broil for 5 minutes or until half of
the scallions are dark brown and starting to char. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then finely chop.
Using a microplane grater, zest both lemons, then juice both lemons, add the zest and juice to a medium bowl. Grate the garlic into the lemon juice, then add chopped herbs, salt, sugar, crushed red pepper, olive oil, chopped scallions and mix well. Set aside to marinate or refrigerate and use within three days.
Grapeseed or other high-heat oil
Coarse salt, to taste
Smoked paprika, to taste
2 whole gutted and scaled sheepshead (about 1 pound each), rinsed and patted dry
Stems from parsley bunch
Finish the veggies: preheat oven to 425°F and line a baking sheet with foil and parchment. Using a heavy-bottomed glass, gently smash each potato into a half-inch thickness; you should be able to be pick it back up in one piece. Place on sheet and brush high-heat oil on each side of the potato and fennel, season with salt and smoked paprika. Bake for 17-23 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
Cook the fish: Line a baking sheet with foil and parchment. Brush high-heat oil on both sides and in the cavity of each fish and season with salt. Stuff remaining parsley into the cavities, and bake for about 12-17 minutes, or to an internal temperature of 135°F.
Finish: let fish rest while veggies finish in oven. Using back of a fork, scrape away fish skin and divide top fillet among plates. Lift away backbone and discard; scoop bottom fillet away from its skin and divide among plates along with the veggies. Drizzle fish and veggies with green sauce and serve extra on the side.