Oven-Roasted Branzino with Greek Ladolemono Sauce
Oven-roasted branzino with Greek ladolemono sauce is probably the simplest way to cook a whole fish and have an easy and healthy meal ready in just half an hour! This recipe is an example of how exceptional simple recipes can be! Delicate fish like branzino tastes best when cooked whole; bones, skin on, head on, and all. This easy cooking method results in tender, succulent and very flavorful fish every time!
What kind of fish is branzino?
It is called branzino in Italian, lavraki in Greek, or, loup de mer in French, this fish is a Mediterranean sea bass, native to the southern coasts of Europe. It has a delicate, white flesh and a wonderful, slightly sweet taste. This fish can be grilled or roasted whole, or, filleted and pan-seared. Branzino lends itself very well to a variety of flavors, especially those assertive, classic, Greek flavors. At summer time, Greeks like to grill it wrapped in grape leaves to protect the delicate flesh, which is another great way to enjoy it!
Why branzino is best cooked whole
A fillet of fish might be convenient and easy to cook, but nothing beats the flavor of a whole roasted fish. Here is why: the bones and skin add a superior flavor and moisture to the fish. Most importantly, they protect it from drying out by keeping the temperature regular and even as the fish cooks. Cooking a whole branzino is really much easier than it seems!
Essential Ingredients for the Oven-Roasted Branzino
Whether you choose to prepare just the fish with the ladolemono sauce, or, make a one-pan meal and accompany it by potatoes, this recipe requires only a minimum of ingredients:
- One whole branzino, about 1 pound; it should be perfect for two
- Extra virgin olive oil – a generous amount of good quality (preferably Greek) olive oil
- Lemon – for stuffing the fish and for the ladolemono sauce
- Fresh Dill (or fresh Parsley)
- Dried Greek Oregano
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Potatoes – smaller size new potatoes (optional), same seasoning as the fish
Classic Greek Ladolemono sauce
- The fish: if you cannot find branzino, red snapper, regular sea bass or striped bass, trout, flounder, or another mild, flaky, whole, white fish could be substituted. You will of course need to take into account the size of the fish and possibly make some adjustments to its cooking time
- The potatoes: in this recipe, the potatoes are optional, but they make this dish more substantial. Other vegetables with similar cooking times can be substituted or added to the potatoes. If you want to cook only the fish, it will be ready in just 20 minutes!
- The ladolemono sauce: I think this sauce is a must but, if you do not want to make it, just squeeze some lemon juice and drizzle some olive oil over the just out-of-the-oven branzino before serving!
How to make the Oven-Roasted Branzino with Greek Ladolemono Sauce (step-by-step):
- Slice, season, and roast the potatoes until tender, but not completely done
2. Prepare the fish by seasoning it generously, stuff the cavity with sliced lemons and fresh herbs, and place it on top of the potatoes
3. Roast for 15-20 minutes until it is flaky and cooked through. Place it on a platter, arrange the potatoes around it and serve it at once with the ladolemono sauce.
Tips for roasting a delicious whole fish
- To cut down on prep time, make sure to ask the fishmonger to clean, scale and gut your fish, leaving the spin bone, the head and tail intact. After the branzino is cooked and the spine bone is removed, please know that there will still be bones inside, which should be easy enough to pick out before eating it
- If you are cooking for many people, it is a good idea to have your fishmonger select fish that are all more or less the same size, so they cook at the same rate
- Season the fish very generously on both sides, drizzle with olive oil and allow it to sit for at least 20 minutes before cooking
- Do not forget to cut a few diagonal slits on both sides of the flesh of the fish, to ensure even cooking and maximum flavor
- Make sure to not over cook the fish, it really does not need much time in the hot oven. Each oven is different and the weight of the fish might be slightly different, so you might need to adjust the cooking time.
- The fish is ready when it turns opaque and flakes easily. Use a meat thermometer, if you have one, to make sure the fish has reached an internal temperature of 145°F
What to serve with the Oven-Roasted Branzino with Greek Ladolemono Sauce
This delicious Greek dish pairs well with any salad, especially with the Greek peasant salad, and the Greek Panzanella salad. If you choose not to cook the potatoes, a great addition to the branzino are some other delicious side dishes like these traditional Greek summer roasted vegetables, this Mediterranean Couscous salad, or, this Orzo with roasted vegetables .
This recipe will completely change the way you think about cooking a whole fish. Even those intimidated by the thought of it, should give it a try!
- ¾ - 1 lb. small, new potatoes, cut into ¼” disks (optional)
- 1 medium Branzino (about 1lb.) – cleaned and scaled
- --- sea salt
- --- freshly ground black pepper
- --- dried Greek oregano
- --- extra virgin olive oil
- ½ lemon cut into ¼” slices
- ½ cup fresh dill, chopped
- 1 TBSP. water
- For the Ladolemono Sauce:
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
- ½ tsp. Dijon mustard (optional)
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Before Starting: When buying the fish, ask the fishmonger to clean and scale your fish, leaving the spin bone, the head, and the tail intact.
- Preheat your oven to 400°F and place a rack in the center of the oven. Set aside a medium size, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Prepare the fish. Rinse and pat dry the branzino then make three, diagonal, slits about 2” long (depending on the size of your fish) on both sides. Rub 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the outside and the inside of the fish, then generously season it, including the cavity, with salt, pepper and oregano. Overlap a few lemon slices in the cavity and top with some fresh dill. Allow the fish to sit at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before cooking (or while the potatoes cook).
- Prepare the potatoes. If you are using potatoes, scrub them well and slice them thinly into disks. You can leave the skin on or peel it off. Toss with plenty of salt, black pepper, dried oregano, olive oil and one tablespoons of water. Place them in a single or slightly overlapping layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast at 400°F until al dente, about 20 minutes.
- Make the ladolemono sauce. Mix together the lemon juice, salt, pepper, oregano and mustard if using. Whisk in the olive oil until a smooth sauce is formed. Alternatively, put all ingredients in a jar with a screw on top and shake vigorously until everything is well incorporated.
- Roast the fish. When the potatoes are mostly cooked, place the prepared fish over the potatoes, drizzle the whole pan with some more olive oil and roast for about 15 minutes (depending on the size of the fish). At this point, the fish should be almost completely cooked through. If you prefer a charred, blistered skin, turn on the broiler and place the fish about 6” under the broiler, for just 3-4 minutes so the skin gets crispy. If you do not want to do that, just bake it for 3-5 minutes more.
- Remove the pan from the oven, test the fish with a fork to make sure it is opaque and it flakes, then transfer it to a serving platter. Arrange the potatoes around it and drizzle the fish with the ladolemono sauce, saving some to drizzle over the deboned fillets too. Enjoy!
At the restaurant, when one orders a whole fish, usually the waiter will fillet it table side. It is not really all that hard to do it on your own. Here is how:
1. First, with the help of a fork and a knife, pull out the back bone at the top, all the way to the head.
2. Next, remove and discard the lemon and dill. Open up the cavity and flip the fish open. Starting from the tail, lift the central bone all the way to the head – it will come off in one piece, including the head.
3. Remove the underbelly bones on both sides and the few bones near the head of the fish.
5. Use a spatula to transfer the two fish fillets to a serving platter. Drizzle with some ladolemono sauce and enjoy!
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