A whole fish is an impressive entrée, especially this one roasted with clams and red peppers and topped with spicy scallion relish. It’s a fresh, vibrant meal that’s gorgeous to look at and has so much more flavor than a boneless, skinless fillet. Don’t be intimidated by cooking a whole fish; it’s actually quite easy and hassle free. A whole fish can be grilled, or roasted in the oven as shown here, with extra goodies like clams and veggies.
The clams in this recipe are more like a garnish, adding iron, copper, and selenium to the meal. The red pepper is the requisite veggie and could be accompanied by thinly sliced fennel, carrots or zucchini. The spicy scallion relish gives this dish some attitude. The longer the relish sits, the bolder it tastes, so make it a day ahead if you can.
Visit your local fish shop to see what’s available and fresh. When shopping for a whole fish, look for clear, bright eyes and shiny scales. To make life easier, ask the fishmonger to clean the fish for you (leaving the head on.) When you buy a whole fish, plan to cook it within a day so it’s as fresh as possible.
Time in the Kitchen: 1 hour
1 cup thinly sliced scallions, green parts only (save the white bottoms) (about 100 g)
1 jalapeno or other small hot pepper, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro, plus a handful of extra sprigs (15 ml)
1 whole fish (2 pounds/900g or slightly less), cleaned with the head left on
1 lemon, thinly sliced
A dozen or so clams
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock (120 ml)
Several tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Mix together the scallions, hot pepper, tablespoon of cilantro, sunflower oil and rice vinegar. Add a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 475 ºF (245 ºC)
Line a baking pan with foil, leaving enough hanging over the edges so you can fold it up and over the top of the fish.
Pat the fish dry and set on the baking pan. Cut angled slits across each side of the fish, about 1 1/2 inches apart. Cut deep enough to expose the flesh, but don’t go all the way down to the bone. Rub the fish down with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and generously season with salt and pepper. Put a half slice of lemon into each of the slits on one side of the fish.
Stuff the cavity with the cilantro sprigs and the reserved scallion bottoms.
Spread the red pepper and clams out around the fish. Drizzle the stock around the fish. Fold the foil up over the fish to form a tent.
Roast for 35 to 40 minutes. Carefully open the foil – watch for steam. Serve with the scallion relish on the side.