It’s designed for the pezzogna, or red sea bream (pagellus bogaraveo), which has a particular penchant for the waters around Capri and the Amalfi Coast. But in fact any fish with good, white, firm flesh would do: spigola (sea bass), orata (gilthead bream), dentice (dentex), any of these, and more, will work.
Ask your fishmonger to scale and clean the fish but leave it whole. The head is not called for in the recipe, but the tail should be left on.
Baked white fish with tomato confit, basil & lemon
- A good-sized red sea bream or other firm white fish, head removed but tail left on. By weight, the fish should be anywhere between 700g and 1kg
- 2 peeled cloves garlic
- 50g butter
- 6 to 8 black olives (preferably Taggiasche)
- A tablespoon of salted capers
- 5 tbs olive oil
- 5 tbs water
- 4 tbs lemon juice
- A scatter of lemon rind, in long thin strips
- 12 basil leaves
- 12 small tomatoes, San Marzano or equivalent
Start by preparing the confit tomatoes. Set the oven to as low as it will go. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out any seeds. Place on a baking sheet and bake for anything up to three hours, if you are able to get the temperature as low as 70°; if your oven only goes down to 100° or 120°, half an hour should do.
When the tomatoes are done, turn the oven up to 170°C.
Mix together the water, oil and lemon juice. Rub the garlic around the bottom of a metal baking tray or copper pan, large enough to take the entire fish. Lay this out and pour on the mixed liquids, then add the butter, broken up into small pieces. Turn the fish so it’s nicely soaked on both sides. Sprinkle the olives and capers into the broth, making sure you’ve rinsed the salt off the capers first (you can soak them for a while in a few changes of water if you like them less salty).
Place in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Test by inserting a knife into a deep part of the flesh; it should be white all the way through, with just a blush of pink where it meets the bone.
As soon as you take the fish out of the oven, sprinkle the basil and strips of lemon rind over it. Serve with new potatoes and a salad of mixed greens, or some lightly steamed spinach.
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