Whole Roasted Branzino & Charred Lemon-Dill Butter
If you’ve never roasted a whole fish before, get to it! Roasting a fish is just as easy as roasting a chicken or a leg of lamb, and a whole lot faster. But more importantly, fish roasted whole and on the bone tastes amazing — the bones flavor the meat and keep it succulent, and the skin protects the delicate flesh.
Branzino is particularly great for roasting whole because its few small bones are pretty easy to find and remove. It also has a mild, almost sweet flavor that benefits from a simple preparation. Here we’ve stuffed it with lemons and fresh oregano, and then, when it’s out of the oven, bathed it in a light dill butter. The result is magnificent: the most tender, buttery, herby fish we’ve ever eaten. We’ve put it on our weekly rotation. It’s so easy that it’s perfect for a weekday family meal, but it looks and tastes impressive enough for guests — pair it with a colorful salad, like a simple nectarine caprese, and it’s a showstopping dinner.
Our tip: Don’t be intimidated by the bones. When our chef made this in the test kitchen, everyone stopped what they were doing to watch him pull the backbone out. The fish was so tender and juicy, the bones slid right out easy-peasy.
1 whole fish
8 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
6 sprigs oregano
2 whole lemons, halved with ends trimmed, plus 4 slices
2 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped and divided
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425º.
Place the fish on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, gently score its skin on both sides. Lightly season with salt.
Stuff the cavity of the fish with 2 tablespoons of butter, oregano, lemon slices, 1 tablespoon of dill, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
Transfer the stuffed fish to a nonstick baking sheet and arrange the remaining lemon halves cut side up around it. Roast until the skin is golden and crisp, about 15 to 17 minutes. Remove the fish from the oven and allow it to cool for 2 to 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining 6 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan.
Add the remaining tablespoon of dill and the juice of one roasted lemon. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
With a pair of tongs, gently remove the lemons, oregano, and backbone from the fish by reaching into the cavity, gripping the backbone near the head or tail and pulling directly towards yourself .
Transfer the fish to a serving dish and spoon the charred lemon-dill butter inside its cavity. Serve hot.