Branzini, a.k.a. Branzino, is just a Mediterranean sea bass. I don’t know why “they” (marketers?) give fish more attractive names, like Chilean Seabass instead of Patagonian toothfish (okay, that I understand) or Mahi Mahi for dorado. The marketing works and brings attention to these delicious light, flaky white fish, but it also can lead to problems like over-fishing. You just have to be a smart consumer.
Branzini are usually about a pound whole, so they’re perfect for a dinner for two. Having been a fish monger after school during high school –see Hurricane Meal post for more on that– I will usually gut and scale the fish myself. On nights where I’d rather keep cleanup to a minimum, I’ll ask the fish monger at the store to do it for me. Once this is done, you’ll be sitting at your table in under thirty minutes. This is one of those meals that speaks for itself and needs very little interference from the person preparing it.
I usually stuff the branzini with fresh herbs, a little rosemary, thyme or basil and the oils from these aromatics make the whole apartment smell incredible. I used red onions, tomato, garlic and a little basil this time, but you can put whatever you’d like in it. I didn’t use any salt or pepper because the fish absorbs the flavor from all of the herbs and really doesn’t need it. Some people like to drizzle the outside of the fish with olive oil if they’re cooking it on higher heat. I leave it in the oven at 350 degrees for thirty minutes.
In the rack below it in the oven I halved a spaghetti squash, one of my absolute favorites, and dusted it with a very light layer of salt and pepper. That’s all it needs. It’s slightly sweet, nutty flavor speaks for itself and complements the mildness of the fish perfectly. When the thirty minutes was up, I scooped out the flesh, pulled open the fish by removing the bones in one motion and had a delicious solid healthy meal. It was perfect for a late Thursday evening after working hard and playing hard and when Friday promises to bring the same.