Today is Palm Sunday for Greek-Orthodox Christians and it’s the second of two dates during the Great Lent where fish is allowed to be consumed (the other was March 25th, Annunciation). Many parishes will be hosting banquets with the main course being fish. These banquets are popular as those who have followed the strict fast for Lent are eager to eat something more substantive.
On the occasion of Palm Sunday, I would like to share this easy baked fish dish, once again featuring one of my favourite fish, the Lavraki or otherwise known as the European sea bass, loup de mer or branzino. This fish is mild, has a firmer meat that stands well on the grill or in the oven.
This dish is seasonal (fresh Spring fennel), lemons, fruity Greek olive oil and some potatoes and carrots to round-out the dish and make it an all-in-one meal. The recipe is for four persons…I’ll share this dish with my gal-pal Joan of Foodalogue. Here’s Joan’s very own stuffed Branzino dish.
Lavraki Sto Fourno (Î›Î±Î²ÏÎ¬ÎºÎ¹ ÏƒÏ„Î¿ Ï†Î¿ÏÏÎ½Î¿)
2 whole European sea bass (scalled and gutted)
1 cup of sliced fennel bulb
zest of 1 lemon + 1 lemon halved and cut into slices
4-6 potatoes, quartered
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup vegetable or fish stock
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh fennel fronds
1 carrot, sliced into medallions
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
splash of Ouzo
Coarse sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Pre-heated 475F oven
- Rinse and pat-dry your fish. Slice your fennel in half, remove the slice into 1/4 inch wedges.. Place a medium pot of water on your stovetop and bring to a boil. Add some salt and add your sliced carrots and fennel wedges and blanche for 4 minutes. Remove with a strainer and place in a bowl with cold water. In the same pot of water, add your quartered potatoes and simmer for 12 minutes. Strain and reserve.
- In the meantime, pre-heat your oven and line your baking vessel with enough aluminum foil to line the inside.
- Drizzle the fish with olive oil and season the fish (inside and out with salt and pepper.Â Using a sharp knife, make 4 angled slits into the body of the fish and carefully insert a half-slice of lemon into each slit. Place a couple of wedges of lemon in each cavity along with some thyme sprigs and fennel fronds.
- Place the fish in a baking vessel and arrange the potatoes, carrots, garlic, Ouzo and fennel around the fish. Drizzle everything with some olive oil, pour the wine and stock over everything and season your potatoes and vegetables with salt and pepper. Strip some sprigs of thyme and sprinkle over everything.
- Cover your baking vessel with foil and bake for approx. 30-35 minutes (or until your potatoes are fork tender) and uncover. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle the lemon zest and chopped fresh fennel fronds. Using a spatula, carefully slide it in between the spine and the spine of the fish. Slice the top fillet carefully onto a plate. Remove the spine of the fish and now slip your spatula under the bottom fillet and carefully flip and plate. Repeat for the second fish.
- Serve with a Sigalas Santorini, made with 100% Assyrtiko grape.
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