I have been wanting to cook a whole fish for some time now. Every time I visit Whole Foods or Fairway I end up staring at the whole brook trout and branzino in the fish case and briefly consider buying them. Then I usually wimp out and buy some shrimp or other fish fillets because obviously cooking a whole fish is more complicated than cooking up some fillets, right? Wrong. Really really wrong. Because this fish was amazingly easy to cook and it was delicious. All I had to do was season it a little, stuff it with some lemon, herbs, and shallots and throw it in the oven. Fifteen minutes later I had two gorgeous rainbow trout sitting on the dining room table in their cute little foil packets. The entire recipe probably took 20 minutes from start to finish (it would take substantially more than that if you had to clean the fish yourself, so get your fishmonger to do that for you).
I suppose you can use any herb you want with this recipe. While looking up various recipes for inspiration, I came across recipes that involved fresh tarragon, fresh dill and rosemary. Alex swears that he saw another recipe that called for sage. We happened to have parsley, cilantro, thyme, oregano, and rosemary all in the fridge. Oh and fresh mint. But I thought the mint and cilantro were obviously not going to work, and Alex isn't a huge fan of fresh parsley, so that left thyme, oregano and rosemary. Originally I was planning on using both the thyme and the oregano and then I decided to go the simple route and just use rosemary instead. I actually picked up the rosemary to make an olive oil cake, but I figured it would work here as well. And boy did it. I'm sure that the other herbs would have produced an equally lovely trout, but I loved how the trout was lightly perfumed with that woodsy rosemary scent, balanced out with a nice punch of lemon and a hint of sweetness from the shallots. I briefly contemplated adding garlic, but I am glad I didn't because I think it would have been a little aggressive in this dish, which was very delicate. I would like to try this recipe (or variations on this recipe) with other whole fish - perhaps a whole brook trout for instance. I think if I were to make a whole branzino I would go a little more Mediterranean with it, but I think this recipe would work well with branzino too! Hurray for an experiment that turned out even better than I had hoped for.
Recipe after the jump!
Whole Roasted Rainbow Trout
2 small rainbow trout, boned
2 rosemary sprigs
2 lemons, one sliced into rounds, one cut in half
1 small shallot, minced
1 tbsp fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Cut four sheets of heavy duty aluminum foil rectangles that are roughly three inches longer than your fish. Drizzle the dull side of the foil with 1 little evoo, and place a trout, skin side down on the foil. Season both sides with salt and pepper, and then open up the fish and season the insides. Place rosemary sprig, lemon slices, and minced shallot inside the fish. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon evoo inside the fish, then fold it closed, and drizzle an additional 1 tsp evoo over the fish.
Fold up the foil loosely, grabbing at the edges and crimping together tightly to make a packet. Take another piece of foil and wrap it up around the already wrapped fish, to ensure that the first packet doesn't leak. Repeat with remaining fish. Place fish on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, checking one of the packets after 10 minutes. The flesh should be opaque and pull apart easily when tested with a fork.
Place each packet on a plate. Carefully cut across the top of the foil packet to open it, taking care not to let the steam from inside the packet burn you, or to cut the fish inside. Then you can either eat the fish directly out of the foil packet, or you can gently remove the fish from the packet, and pour the juices over it. Sprinkle with fresh parsley.
Serve with lemon wedges.